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Tories reject blanket ban on abortion clinic protests

Labour MPs condemn the decision to ‘green light’ the harassment of women who exercise their right to choose

THE government’s rejection today of calls to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics to prevent women being harassed by “pro-life” protesters sparked condemnation by Labour MPs.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said in a written statement that a ban covering all clinics “would not be a proportionate response” to protests he claims have been “more passive in nature.”

He said that while his department’s review had found examples of harassment and damaging behaviour, these activities were not the norm.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott accused Mr Javid of giving “the green light for women to be harassed and abused for exercising their right to choose.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mr Javid should “reverse this decision immediately” as it resulted in a “shocking failure to protect women from harassment and intimidation.”

Labour MP and pro-ban campaigner Rupa Huq said she was “disappointed” at the rejection of a national buffer zone plan.

In the Commons, Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said  about one in 10 clinics had reported harassment.

Demonstrations were staged outside 36 of the 363 clinics, she added, arguing for the implementation of buffer zones on a case-by-case basis.

Earlier this year, a public space protection order was introduced by Ealing Council, covering Ms Huq’s constituency, to protect women from harassment outside a Marie Stopes clinic.

She told MPs: “[The government] seems to be saying there has to be a disproportionate number of women affected before any action takes place.”

Lamiat Sabin is the Morning Star’s Parliamentary Reporter.

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