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Anti-abortion campaigners have lost a Court of Appeal challenge against a ban on protests outside an abortion clinic in Ealing, West London.Ealing Council became the first in the country to create a 100m protest-free “buffer zone” outside a Marie Stopes clinic following demonstrations in April 2018. The council imposed the public spaces protection order (PSPO) following reports of “intimidation, harassment and distress” for women using the facility in Mattock Lane.Members of the Good Counsel Network (GCN), who regularly held vigils outside the clinic, then mounted a legal challenge in a bid to overturn the ban.At a hearing in London in July, their lawyers argued the ban interferes with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief and freedom of assembly and association.They also said the council was wrong to use a PSPO because the orders were designed to protect local residents from anti-social behaviour, and clinic users were “one-off or occasional” visitors to the area.Three leading judges – the Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, Lady Justice King and Lady Justice Nicola Davies – unanimously dismissed their appeal on Wednesday.Speaking shortly after the decision was made, Marie Stopes UK’s managing director Richard Bentley said it was “a victory for common sense, compassion and women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies free from harassment”.Adding that the presence of the groups who gather outside clinics “have a detrimental impact on women, our team members and residents”, he said: “Whether their behaviour is subtle or overt, it is a form of discrimination against women and targeted street harassment.“We believe in the right to assembly, expression and to practice your religion, but this should never be at the expense of a woman’s right to legal healthcare.“Context is everything, and a woman’s right to privacy and family life is paramount when walking through our clinic doors.”He’s also calling for the government to implement protest-free zones at abortion clinics across the country. “From the day it was introduced this Public Spaces Protection Order has protected the wellbeing of everyone coming to our West London centre,” Bentley said. “But ultimately a PSPO is not an adequate response to what is a national problem, leaving most clinics across the country defenceless.“It is time for the UK government to end the postcode lottery of harassment and legislate for Safe Access Zones outside all registered abortion care providers in the UK.”READ MORE...
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