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London’s mayor backs ban on pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London (Getty Images)

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has said he favours the banning of pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics.

His intervention follows a call by 113 MPs, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for the Government to introduce “buffer zones” outside clinics to stop the vigils.

Two local authorities in England have now voted to ban pro-life vigils outside clinics, potentially by using public space protection orders (PSPO), which allow authorities to criminalise behaviour not normally considered criminal. One of the councils is Ealing in west London.

In a statement read out at City Hall the Labour mayor said: “I am very supportive of local authorities using enforcement tools at their disposal in an appropriate and targeted way and this is a good example of a local solution.” He added: “I fully support the motion set down by Ealing borough council.”

Mr Khan tweeted: “I support the right to protest – but when protest turns into harassment of women accessing their rights, something needs to be done.”

However, the Good Counsel Network, a pro-life group which holds vigils outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing, strongly denies accusations of harassment.

Clare McCullough, the group’s founder, said last month: “I’m amazed at the lengths people will go to stop pregnant women from looking at the alternatives.

“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.”

In his speech Mr Khan thanked Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, for her contribution to the issue. Ms Huq has been campaigning vigorously to stop pro-life vigils with buffer zones.

She said the Ealing option was a “national answer to the problem”.

This week Portsmouth city council became England’s second local authority to vote in favour of banning pro-life vigils.