‘Baby clothes in bushes’: Calls for Bournemouth abortion clinic buffer zone amid harassment warnings

Campaigners have called for a buffer zone to be introduced at an abortion clinic after warnings anti-abortion activists have harassed women hundreds of times outside the centre.

Activists have been accused of using intimidating and aggressive tactics outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic in Bournemouth – including resorting to hiding baby clothes in bushes outside the clinic and distributing medically erroneous pamphlets.

BPAS, the UK’s largest abortion provider, says it has amassed more than 600 pieces of evidence about harassment which has occurred at the clinic since 2017.

The service reported incidents such as anti-abortion activists aggressively trying to persuade women not to have a pregnancy terminated, as well as following them down the street.

It said activists had also harassed staff who work at the clinic and had used tactics such as brandishing graphic photos linked to pregnancy and abortion.

Jess Bone, from Sister Supporter, a group campaigning to stop harassment outside abortion clinics, said: “Although the government has so far failed to put national legislation in place to tackle this problem, local councils already have the power, through Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), to stop harassment outside clinics.

“We are urging Bournemouth Council to do the right thing, act now, and put a buffer zone around the clinic to protect patients and staff.”

A buffer zone stops anti-abortion protesters or any other types of demonstrators standing outside the clinic or in the near vicinity to it. Local councils are able to introduce such measures under legislation rolled out in 2014 – with Ealing Council in west London introducing the UK’s first ever “buffer zone” around an abortion clinic in 2018.

The issue is a nationwide one, with women across the UK often suffering abuse while seeking an abortion. More than 100,000 women attending clinics targeted by anti-abortion demonstrations in 2019.

Campaigners have long been calling for the government to roll out such “buffer zones” outside clinics nationally. The government rejected calls for the introduction of buffer zones barring anti-abortion demonstrations outside clinics across the UK in October 2018.

Sister Supporter urged Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council to establish a PSPO to safeguard staff and patients at the clinic from harassment. Campaigners have asked the public to write to the council to call on them to roll out the buffer zone.

Katherine O’Brien, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “Women in Bournemouth should be able to access a lawful, confidential health service free from intimidation, and our staff should be able to provide this care without facing harassment.

“We have seen in Richmond and Ealing, both areas in which the local councils have introduced buffer zones around clinics, that this is an effective measure with a positive impact on the wellbeing of clients, staff, and the local community. We urge Bournemouth Council to do the right thing and bring forward a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) as a matter of urgency.”


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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