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Abortion clinic protest law proposed

A proposed law ‘to restrict demonstrations in the vicinity of abortion clinics’ has been aired by a London Labour MP in Parliament.

Dr Rupa Huq’s Ealing constituency has the first public space protection order in Britain, covering a Marie Stopes clinic, pictured. Dr Huq pointed out that the PSPO set by the borough council is due to run out next year. A few other councils are looking at similar PSPOs, as a ‘buffer zone’ against anti-abortion protest.

Conservative MP for Congleton, Fiona Bruce spoke against, on the grounds of ‘potentially damaging impact on freedom of speech’ and arguing that enough laws cover harassment already. The proposed law is unlikely to happen.

While PSPOs are widespread across parks and town centres in England and Wales, they run for a maximum of three years before they have to be renewed by a council. Work on bringing in new PSPOs, as in Manchester city centre, has gone into hibernation during the coronavirus crisis.

Background

A Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) proposes to deal with a nuisance, typically littering, or dog mess, in a area that is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life. Other nuisances can be street drinking, urinating and drug-taking. PSPOs date from the 2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill and replaced the Blair-Labour era anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs). Breaches of the order can lead to fines or a prosecution court. Enforcement of PSPOs can be by police or ‘authorised persons’.

While Richmond in west London also has a PSPO governing protest around an abortion clinic, other orders are specific, such as one in Cambridge seeking to combat any touting for a ‘punt tour or hire or use of punts boats or similar craft on the River Cam’.


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