Home Secretary Amber Rudd has asked “interested parties” with experience of pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics to have their say as part of a Government consultation.
The Home Office has launched a review into alleged “harassment” by pro-lifers outside abortion clinics. It is considering whether new powers are needed to protect people going to the clinic or working there.
The review, announced in November, initially sought views only from police forces, healthcare providers and local authorities.
But the Home Secretary has now widened the consultation to include protesters, or people taking part in the vigils, as well as those who have “sought medical opinion or advice” from the clinics.
The deadline for contributions from the public is February 19. The questionnaire can be accessed here.
The Home Secretary said: “An abortion is an incredibly personal decision for anyone to take, and so it is completely unacceptable for women to face harassment or intimidation for exercising their legal right to healthcare advice and treatment.
“While everyone has a right to peaceful protest, this review is about ensuring the police, healthcare providers and local authorities have the right powers to protect women making these tough decisions.”
Ealing council in west London, meanwhile, has launched a separate consultation on whether a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) should be imposed to stop pro-life vigils outside a clinic there.
The Good Counsel Network, which organises the vigils, has strongly denied any harassment.
Antonia Tully, director of campaigns at the Society for the Protection of Unborn (SPUC), urged people to participate in the consultation in order to protect people’s right to help women.
She said: “Peaceful, prayerful pro-life vigils must continue to offer help to desperate women coming to [Marie Stopes International]. Many women are ambivalent about abortion and the presence of groups such as the Good Counsel Network offers a lifeline to such women.”