A total of 113 MPs have signed a letter urging the Home Secretary Amber Rudd to ban prayer vigils outside abortion clinics.
The letter, signed by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, and Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was sent to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act, which introduced legal abortion into Britain.
It comes after Ealing council in west London voted to use anti-social behaviour powers to stop vigils outside an abortion clinic in the borough. Earlier this week legislators in Ontario, Canada, also voted to ban vigils outside clinics.
The letter, written by Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, accused pro-lifers of harassing women outside the clinics – an accusation strongly denied by the Good Counsel Network, which organises the vigils.
Huq said protesters called women “murderers” and filmed them as they went in and out of the clinics.
She said the idea was “not to stop protests, but to ask protesters to instead make use of the many places they could protest – from Parliament Square to town centres to Speaker’s Corner”.
She wrote: “The women accessing clinics are not seeking debate – they are trying to make their own personal decision about their own pregnancy.”
Clare McCullough, the founder of the Good Counsel Network, has said that protesters do not “harass” women. She said if protesters were truly harassing people, they would already face prosecution under existing laws.
“I’m amazed at the lengths people will go to stop pregnant women from looking at the alternatives,” she said. “We try to make sure women are not being pressured into abortion. We’ve had hundreds of women accept help outside Marie Stopes.
“Harassment is a crime. If we were harassing anyone we would be arrested. In fact, what we’re trying to do is help women to have an alternative, if they’re willing to accept it.”
Earlier this month Ealing council voted to use a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to ban protests outside clinics. The orders were introduced in 2014 amid concerns that they might be used to criminalise public activities “merely considered unusual or unpopular”.
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