Oxford University Labour Club Women’s* Caucus have called on the Home Office to “accelerate their promised announcement” on the possible wider implementation of safe zones outside abortion clinics as a “matter of urgency”.
Proponents argue already established buffer zones, like the one outside Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing, West London, limit the amount of abuse, intimidation, and attacks people visiting the clinics face. Such zones have been “beneficial for the wellbeing of clinic employees and visitors.”
The statement, authored by OULC Women’s* Officer, Lottie Sellers, was signed by both incumbent OULC Co-Chairs, Charlotte Austin and Francesca Best.
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, has promised an announcement on the issue by September.
The Women’s* Caucus said: “The Caucus, as emphasised in earlier statements, fully supports reproductive autonomy and believes that access to safe abortions is vital, and that people should be able to seek these without feeling threatened, harassed or endangered.
“We call for the Home Office to accelerate their promised announcement on widening the implementation of these buffer zones as matter of urgency, in order to safeguard and respect the rights and wellbeing of those seeking reproductive health services, be they abortions or the wider provisions of the clinics.”
OULC Women’s* Officer, Lottie Sellers, told Cherwell: “As emphasised in the statement, OULC Women’s* Caucus believe that the availability of safe abortions and family planning services is vital.
“Furthermore, it is not enough that these services should simply exist – people should be able to access them without facing prejudice and abuse.
“As it stands, the provision of these services in countries such as the USA is marred by intimidation and violence from protestors who seek to restrict the bodily autonomy and rights of visitors to the clinics.
“This is a phenomenon which is very much on the rise in the UK too, as a small but significant and threatening group of campaigners copy the examples of their American counterparts, behaving in ways which go beyond freedom of speech and expression and instead are actively threatening.
“The Home Office are being lukewarm at best in their response, and having acknowledged the call for the protection of British clinics by safe zones, they are nonetheless taking a potentially dangerously long time on a decision which is of great importance to people’s rights of safe abortions and bodily autonomy.”
Ealing Council was the first local authority to introduce a public spaces protection order (PSPO) for the area around a Marie Stopes clinic in April this year.
Labour MP for Ealing and West Acton, Rupa Huq, is leading a cross-party effort to pass national legislation widening the model implemented in Ealing.