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Appeal court upholds protest-free zone outside Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Ealing | UK News

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The Court of Appeal has upheld a landmark ruling allowing a protest-free zone outside an abortion clinic in Ealing, London.

The Marie Stopes clinic on Mattock Lane was the first in the country to introduce a 100-metre ban stopping pro-life campaigners approaching women outside the west London clinic.

The exclusion zone came into force in April 2018 after reports that women were being “distressed, harassed and intimidated”.

The case to ban the zone was dismissed last year in the High Court.

Three judges have now upheld that decision after an appeal by attendees of a vigil run by the Good Counsel Network (GCN).

Pro-life campaigners outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing, west London
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Pro-life campaigners outside the clinic in Ealing in April 2018

The manager at the clinic, Sally O’Brien, said that before the zone was introduced women were regularly “harassed” and “blocked from accessing care”.

She said: “I’ve had salt thrown at me as I’ve walked up the street, I’ve seen the women be blocked at the gate, they’ve had rosaries pushed into their hands…

“As they leave they then call them mum and murderer, they then rebuke them as they are leaving the clinic and they chase them up the street.”

Ms O’Brien added: “If they [pro-life campaigners] wish to help someone, they can make themselves available to them outside the clinic and elsewhere, and if that woman wishes to have that counselling and needs someone to help her make a decision then absolutely they should be there.

“Where they should not be is outside a healthcare clinic where a woman is accessing legal healthcare and preventing her from doing that, that’s what’s wrong.”

Ealing Council said action was taken in the interest of locals and that since the zone was introduced it had seen a dramatic reduction in anti-social behaviour in the area.

But campaigners argue that their rights to protest have been unlawfully interfered with.

Elizabeth Howard, from the pro-life Be Here For Me campaign, said women were being denied a choice about whether to have an abortion.

The clinic kept a log on incidents involving pro-life campaigners
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The clinic kept a log of incidents involving pro-life campaigners

Ms Howard said: “I think it’s important for people to have a genuine choice.

“I think often people think they don’t have a choice, they feel that because of their circumstances and because they are often pressurised by their partners, by their families into an abortion; the choice is an illusion for many people.”

“Samina”, who does not want to use her real name, went to Marie Stopes to have an abortion five years ago, but changed her mind after being approached by a campaigner outside the clinic.

She was offered financial help, including rent for a two-bed flat, which meant she could give birth to a baby boy.

“I tried finding help online, but in the end I didn’t believe that they were really going to help me,” said Samina.

“But when I saw someone physically standing there when I was literally in tears and she hugged me and said ‘don’t worry we are going to help you’…

“I get very emotional whenever I think about that moment and what I was going to do. Just because I had financial difficulties I was going to have an abortion, and when I look at my son now I feel very emotional.”

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