The perennial issue of womens’ reproductive rights has been bitterly fought by those on both sides of the discussion on many fronts. One such front being the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic on Rosslyn Road, St Margarets. The clinic has recently been granted a protest ‘buffer zone’ to force anti-abortion protestors further away from the clinic.

Since its establishment in September 2013, the abortion clinic has not only been the destination of people in need of their services but also groups who opposed these services altogether. One such group, the Good Counsel Network, argued they were aiming to provide emotional and financial support to those who felt pressured into seeking an abortion. Many of the protests took on a loosely religious form with multiple prayer vigils taking place. Regardless of how they showed their opposition or which groups they represented, protestors could be found every day outside the clinic.

As a result of what has been described as ‘hassling and intimidatory protest’ by one St Margarets resident, the local council received hundreds of complaints. The only previous official action taken against these protests was the forced dispersion of protestors under Section 14 Public Order Act in 2014. The council chose to produce an online survey detailing a proposal for a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), attempting to gauge local opinion on the matter. Overall, 80% of responders said they were in favour of the ban, although there were some who opposed it either on anti – abortion or right to protest grounds. Eventually, in early April, the council concluded it was going to enact said PSPO which would make it illegal to protest in the ‘buffer zone’ with the penalty of an £80 fine if this area was infringed by anybody deemed to be protesting. This policy was aimed to protect the BPAS staff and those intending to use the clinic, who made up the main proponents of this ‘buffer zone’.

However, the case remains in dispute as groups who had previously carried out protests argued that false claims had been made about their methods. One spokesperson claimed that they only ‘wished to help those going through this process’. While their methods have been misrepresented to a certain extent, the results of the aforementioned survey would suggest that this view was not shared by attendees of the clinic, be they staff or patients. Living in the local area, it has been evident that these measures have quelled protests and improved the experience of those in the already difficult position of needing to use the clinic.