July 2, 2018 / 4:33 PM / in 9 months

British court upholds ban on protests at abortion clinic

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A British court on Monday upheld a ban on protests outside a London abortion clinic after it was challenged by anti-abortion campaigners who argued it violated their rights.

Authorities in west London introduced the ban, the first of its kind in Britain, in April after clashes between pro- and anti-abortion campaigners that they said intimidated patients.

High Court judge Mark Turner found there had been “significant interference” with activists’ rights, but said there was evidence patients felt their privacy was being “very seriously invaded at a time and place when they were most vulnerable”.

Marie Stopes UK, the charity that runs the clinic in London’s Ealing, welcomed the judge’s decision and said it hoped local authorities in other parts of the country would consider protest-free buffer zones around such facilities.

“Ealing Council’s buffer zone has already made a transformative difference to the women who depend on our services, local residents, and our own staff,” said managing director Richard Bentley in a statement.

The Be Here For Me campaign, which backed the legal challenge, said the ban violated its right to free speech and could prevent women having abortions against their will from receiving support.

“While there are women who feel they have no choice but an abortion they don’t want, we will do their best to reach them,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Howard.

Reporting by Chris Creegan, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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