The council’s decision to create a “buffer zone” around a Marie Stopes clinic is historicby Dawn Starin / June 21, 2018 / Leave a comment
Mattock Lane in Ealing, West London is a leafy, quiet, mostly-residential street with solid, detached Victorian and Edwardian houses. Dog walkers, mothers with strollers, kids with heavily laden backpacks, designer-clad joggers and groups of teenagers glued to their iphones, head into Walpole Park, a 28 acre haven of wildlife, ornamental ponds and historic buildings. Flocks of squawking rose-necked parakeets fly overhead. English ivies, lavender and hebes are planted in neat bunches in generous sized gardens. Everything seems very properly suburban and ordinary. In fact, Ealing is often referred to as “the queen of the suburbs.” And yet here on Mattock Lane, there is a Marie Stopes clinic that has just become an important part of abortion history in Great Britain.
In October 2017 Sister Supporter, a pro-choice organisation founded by local residents, presented Ealing Council with a dossier of evidence of harassment, including photographs, video, audio and written witness statements and petitioned Ealing Council to put an end to the anti-abortion protests outside the clinic. After months of public consultations and exploring a range of options, Ealing Council’s cabinet voted unanimously in favour of creating a safe zone around the clinic.
In spite of an escalation in aggressive anti-abortion activity directly outside clinics throughout the country, where many protesters bear large banners of dismembered foetuses, distribute leaflets containing misleading information about abortion, and film, follow and question women as they enter or leave the centres, nowhere else in the country has a buffer zone been set up to protect an abortion clinic, its staff and its clients.
Upon hearing the Council’s news, Richard Bentley, Managing Director at Marie Stopes UK, said: “This was never about protest. It was about small groups of strangers choosing to gather by our entrance gates where they could harass and intimidate women and try to prevent them from accessing healthcare to which they are legally entitled. Ealing Council has sent a clear message that this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated, and that these groups have no justification for trying to involve themselves in one of the most personal decisions a woman can make.”
Now, neither pro-life nor pro-choice activists are allowed to protest near the clinic, although there is a small “designated area” inside a patch of grass, roughly 100m from the clinic where members of represented groups will be able to carry out protests and vigils in order to preserve…