CALLS have been made to introduce a ‘buffer zone’ at the city’s abortion clinic to stop women being ‘harassed’ by pro-life campaigners.
Tensions between pro-choice and pro-life campaigners led to scuffles outside the BPAS clinic at St Mary’s health campus last month after both sought to demonstrate their views.
The scuffles – which followed weeks of quiet protests outside the Milton hospital by pro-life group 40 Days of Life – led to minor confrontations on the campus.
Now, a councillor has joined a national call for tighter restrictions to be placed outside the hospital that would prevent the pro-life group from campaigning there.
Ward councillor Will Purvis has placed a motion for Portsmouth City Council to create a so-called ‘buffer zone’ in order to deter the pro-life protestors.
In his motion, Cllr Purvis wrote: ‘The right to protest needs to be balanced with the right of pregnant women to choose and to obtain advice and treatment in confidence and free from intimidation.
The right to protest needs to be balanced with the right of pregnant women to choose and to obtain advice and treatment in confidence and free from intimidationCouncillor Will Purvis
‘Those who wish to campaign against abortion have plenty of opportunities and locations in which to do so. The area outside a clinic need not and should not be one of them.’
Calls for buffer zones have been growing nationally as women outside a clinic in Ealing, London have also faced protests.
Ealing Council voted last month to consider implementing a public space protection order (PSPO) in order to disperse demonstrators from outside the Marie Stopes Clinic.
Cllr Purvis said that a PSPO should be explored amongst ‘every possible option’ by the council in order to take action against protestors.
Rachael Clarke, public affairs and advocacy manager at BPAS backed the idea of a buffer zone in Portsmouth.
She said: ‘Portsmouth has seen a flashpoint over the last few weeks in regards to protests from the group, 40 Days of Life.
‘It has been very unpleasant for the women coming into the clinic and the staff working there.
‘Women are regularly telling staff that they are feeling stigmatised, judged and that the protestors are overstepping the bounds.’
In response to the idea of buffer zones, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, campaign director for 40 Days of Life Birmingham said: ‘It would be a very sad day if these zones are introduced.
‘There has been no harassment from our group at these clinics.’
The motion will be debated at full council on Tuesday.