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Second London council considers banning vigils outside abortion clinics

A pro-life vigil, with pro-choice demonstrators in the background, outside an abortion clinic in Bedford Square, London, in 2012. The clinic stopped performing abortions in 2013 (PA)

Another local authority is considering banning prayer vigils outside abortion clinics after claims of pro-lifers “intimidating and upsetting” women.

Councillors in the London borough of Southwark voted overwhelmingly last week to consider creating so-called “buffer zones”, following similar votes in Ealing and Portsmouth.

Pro-abortion campaigners have accused pro-lifers harassing women outside abortion clinics, holding graphic banners and even filming women with body cameras.

The manager of the Colombo Street clinic in Southwark – which is run by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the UK’s largest abortion provider – said she was delighted with the vote.

The council said the motion was “not about the arguments for or against abortion but rather about a woman’s legal right to go to a clinic without intimidation or harassment.”

The vote comes after Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced a government review into introducing “buffer zones” across the country.

“While everyone has a right to peaceful protest, it is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed or intimidated simply for exercising their legal right to healthcare advice and treatment,” she said last week.

“The decision to have an abortion is already an incredibly personal one, without women being further pressured by aggressive protesters.”

The Good Counsel Network, which organises prayer vigils in Ealing, has strongly denied harassing women. Clare McCullough, the group’s director, wrote to the Home Secretary to “state categorically that no one attending our vigils calls women seeking abortion ‘murderers’. Nor do we follow them.”