The House of Commons has voted for the final time to comprehensively introduce safe access zones (also referred to as buffer zones) around abortion clinics. The relevant Bill, the Public Order Bill, is now set to become law. Humanists UK briefed MPs in the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) ahead of the vote, with assistance from bpas. It has today welcomed the vote, which was 299-116 in favour.
Safe access zones are areas around clinics where certain abortion-specific harassment such as displaying graphic signs, following and filming women, and approaching women and doctors will not be allowed. Similar legislation was passed in Northern Ireland last year. This was challenged before the UK Supreme Court, which ruled that it is lawful. A law is also being considered in Scotland.
The safe access zone provisions were first added to the Bill in October through an amendment introduced in the House of Commons by Stella Creasy MP, and again supported by Humanists UK. The Lords then improved the wording in January. MPs have now backed that revised wording and voted down amendments that would have weakened it. That means the Bill will now proceed to royal assent, at which stage it will become law.
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented:
‘We welcome MPs voting for the final time to introduce safe access zones around abortion clinics. We are strong defenders of freedom of religion, belief, and expression. But all of our freedoms can and should be limited where they impinge on the rights and freedoms of others, and that includes women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The new law won’t prevent people from protesting against abortion – just properly remove their ability to harass women while doing so. And with anti-abortion protests growing in recent years, the need for this legislation is clear.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Read more about our work on abortion.
Read the briefing prepared by bpas and supported by Humanists UK.
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