Pro-life group takes legal action over abortion clinic 'buffer zone'
A pro-life group is taking legal action against Birmingham City Council over a 'buffer zone' surrounding an abortion clinic.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, 45, who runs 40 Days for life Birmingham, is upset her group is not allowed to protest near Robert Clinic in Kings Norton.
In September, the city council issued a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to protect patients and staff from chanting, graphic pictures and being blocked from entering the clinic.
Vaughan-Spruce is challenging the validity of the PSPO, arguing the local authority has exceeded its powers.
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Vaughan-Spruce, who the Christian Legal Centre is supporting, said: “Through this action I am not asking for anyone to agree with what 40 Days believes; others have the right to disagree.
“However, I am asking for justice to be upheld despite our differences in belief.”
She added: “We believe it is totally disproportionate and unnecessary to ban prayer connected to abortion in an area where a Catholic Church is, as well as banning the use of the words ‘baby’ or ‘mum’ in any text or imagery.’”
Vaughan-Spruce’s lawyers will ask The High Court to declare the PSPO “unlawful, unjustified and an interference with Miss Vaughan-Spruce’s and other pro-lifers’ rights" under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Read more: Abortion buffer zone ‘victory’: the 10-year battle to protect the rights of women
But locals living near Robert Clinic said there were “sad and frustrated” after pro-lifers began to protest there again despite the buffer zone.
Resident Liz Bates told the Birmingham Mail: "We are concerned that the increased prominence of their protest, with signs, will prove to be a flash point and bring more tension to our neighbourhood.
"The protest caused regular disputes and arguments outside the clinic, this is not going to be any different. We are calling on the council to extend the Buffer Zone further as this is causing distress and tension."
Police and local authorities can apply for buffer zones to be set up if they receive complaints, but these zones can be contested in court.
Last month, MPs supported proposals to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics and hospitals in England and Wales.
The House of Commons voted 297 to 110, majority 187, in favour of an amendment to the Public Order Bill in a bid to offer greater protection to women by preventing protesters from gathering.
The move, pushed by a cross-party group of MPs, would introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics and hospitals where it would be an offence to interfere, intimidate or harass women accessing or people providing abortion services.
Those convicted could face up to six months in jail for a first offence or two years for further offences.
A buffer zone would apply to an area which is within 150 metres from any part of an abortion clinic or access point to any building or site that contains an abortion clinic.
Labour MP Stella Creasy, who proposed the new legislation, said the zones would protect women.
She said: “It does not stop free speech on abortion. It does not stop people protesting.
“It simply says you shouldn’t have the right to do this in the face of somebody – and very often these people are right up in front of people.”