Scuffles during rallies at Portsmouth health centre over abortion

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SCUFFLES broke out between campaigners at tension-filled rallies outside a hospital over abortion.

Two groups, Portsmouth Pro-Choice and pro-life group 40 Days for Life had both planned to campaign outside St Mary’s health campus, which houses the BPAS abortion clinic, in Milton today.

The pro-choice group arrived early and set up base next to the entrance on Union Road.

They were expecting the 40 Days for life activists to arrive as the group had been protesting outside the centre every day since September 27.

However, once the pro-life group arrived, minor scuffles broke out between the two sides as the former moved on to the campus’ site.

Both groups were marshalled by the police and any scuffles were swiftly ended in what was a tense affair at the beginning.

Emily Brotherhood organised the pro-choice rally.

She said: ‘We came down here to show those who use the clinic that they have our support.

‘For weeks, 40 Days of Life have been coming to the centre and making women feel that they are being harassed and intimidated.’

The 60-strong group held up banners and placards aloft while chanting their support for the clinic. The event had been shared widely on social media this week.

Ms Brotherhood added: ‘It is amazing to see so many people down here giving the clinic their support. To me, it shows that Portsmouth cares about the right for women to be able to choose.’

A member from the 40 Days for Life group said that she was not protesting but ‘praying’ and that it was her role to be there as a Christian.’

The woman, who refused to give her name, said: ‘I am here to pray today because I am a Christian.

‘I am here outside this abortion clinic because I do not believe it is right. I believe a child is a child once it has been conceived.’

Once the two groups were both at the scene, the pro-choice group continued to chant in favour of women having the option of an abortion while the pro-life group knelt down and prayed.

The 40 Days for Life group – which was escorted by two police officers – was made up of around 40 people, some carrying megaphones and a large painting of Jesus Christ held up at the head of the procession.

The activist group had walked to the centre from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Minstead Road following a mass in the morning.