COMMENT: Council must act now to stop abortion clinic protests

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For more than a month, a pro-choice campaign group has been protesting outside the abortion clinic at St Mary’s Hospital campus.

To anyone driving past the Milton Road hospital they are an unnerving site – waving placards, holding up pictures of Jesus, kneeling men dressed in what look like clerical robes, rosary beads in hand as they pray.

So, imagine how it feels to have to walk past this group, pregnant, on your way to BPAS clinic to discuss a termination?

The group, 40 Days for Life, claim not to be protesting. They say they are merely there to pray.

And let’s be clear, they’re not protesting.

That is a right enshrined in law, thank goodness.

What they are doing is bullying and intimidating women at their most vulnerable.

Scared, frightened – an abortion clinic is often the place women turn to when they have no other option left.

It’s not something any woman would enter into lightly.

So having to run the gauntlet of religious zealots to access the free healthcare that is also enshrined in law, must be deeply distressing.

Councillor Will Purvis’s motion at Portsmouth City Council to introduce a buffer zone around the campus to protect patients cannot come soon enough.

It comes as calls have been made nationally for buffer zones around all family planning clinics.

Women have the right to make decisions over their own bodies free from fear of intimidation.

It’s appalling that they should have to be exposed by this misplaced religious fervour.

Let’s hope that when Cllr Purvis’ motion is debated at Full Council on Tuesday, his colleagues across all parties make the right decision and end this scourge.