The Home Office has rejected calls to introduce national buffer zones around abortion clinics in September, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid explaining that ‘it would not be proportionate response, considering the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics, and considering that the majority of activities are more passive in nature.’
Bishop John Sherrington has welcomed the decision, saying:
‘I welcome the Government’s rejection of calls for buffer zones to be introduced outside abortion clinics in England and Wales.
‘We believe that in a democratic society the freedom to protest and express one’s opinion is always to be considered in its relationship to the common good, a set of relationships which enable individuals and groups to flourish in society. It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions except when they could cause grave harm to others or a threat to public order.
‘The freedom to assemble and express concern for both the good of the mother and the unborn person is an aspect of the furthering of the common good which involves the care for the unborn, whom we believe must be protected from harm.
‘We recognise that there are members of the public, often associated with churches, who gather peacefully to pray outside abortion clinics and witness to the good of human life in a dignified way. It is an unacceptable situation if any people harass or intimidate women visiting clinics, even if such situations are rare. It is clearly not the case that all action is of this nature, and the distinctions between persons and groups should be examined further. There is legislation by which those who coerce, threaten or intimidate others can be charged or prosecuted.
‘We agree with the Home Secretary that everyone has a right to peaceful witness. We are pleased that in a free society the government has sought a proportionate response to the problem as it was presented and trust that a balance will be found that protects both the rights of people to gather peaceably and the rights of others to be free from intimidation.’