Anti-Abortion Campaigners Who Lost High Court Case Against Ealing Clinic Buffer Zone To Appeal

Ealing Council became the first in the country to impose a protest exclusion zone.

A mother who decided at the last minute not to terminate her pregnancy after coming across a pro-life vigil outside an abortion clinic is to challenge a council on its decision to ban them.

Alina Dulgheriu lost a High Court case last April against Ealing Council after it banned certain activities immediately outside a Marie Stopes clinic in west London, including prayer, ‘interfering’ with clinic users, and handing out leaflets expressing support for women who wish to keep their child.

Her action was filed on behalf of the Be Here For Me campaign, a group of activists “against the ban on help outside abortion clinics”.

The High Court accepted that Dulgheriu’s rights of freedom of expression, religion and assembly had been infringed by the ban, but ultimately decided to uphold Ealing’s Public Space Protection Order.

But in a new development, the Court of Appeal will hear the challenge to the buffer zone, and it comes after Dulgheriu raised more than £50,000 to fund the appeal.

Dulgheriu said: “My little girl is here today because of the real practical and emotional support that I was given by a group outside a Marie Stopes centre, and I am continuing with this appeal to ensure that women in Ealing and all across the country do not have this vital support option removed.

“Ealing Council could have taken action in a way that would have protected women and safeguarded the essential, life-saving help offered at the gate. Instead they criminalised charity and attempted to remove dedicated and caring individuals from public space without justification.

She added: “I refuse to accept that women should be denied the opportunity to receive help where they want to keep their child.”

Dulgheriu had decided to have an abortion in 2011 after she lacked the financial support to have a child and felt she had no other option.

“I refuse to accept that women should be denied the opportunity to receive help where they want to keep their child”

- Alina Dulgheriu

“I was devastated because I could never have imagined having an abortion, but I couldn’t find the support I needed to continue my pregnancy. I felt abandoned and alone”, she wrote on the GoFundMe page.

“However my story had a happy ending because I was offered help and support as I was entering an abortion centre by a local pro-life vigil.”

She added that she has since attended more vigils outside abortion clinics across London to help women in a similar position.

Ealing Council became the first to introduce the 100m buffer zone to deter pro-life protesters last April, following reports of harassment at the facility in Mattock Lane.

Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said it would be defending the safe zone.

He said in a statement: “We introduced it because the quality of life for our residents was being detrimentally impacted outside the clinic. Before introducing the zone in April 2018, we carried out an extensive investigation and public consultation that confirmed the need for action.

“Within our powers we have created a zone that protects people living, working and travelling through the area while also allowing for freedom of expression at a safe distance away. Our safe zone is working well and will continued to be enforced ahead of the court’s decision.”

Sister Supporter, an Ealing pro-choice campaign group, had collected more than 3,000 signatures in support of the zone before the final decision was made.

In September, home secretary Sajid Javid denied that the measure would be rolled out further, saying the council and police were there to deal with reports of intimidation or harassment.

Sister Supporter said in a statement: “We welcome the opportunity for this case to be reviewed, and lead the way for other PSPO’s across the country.

“The impact on service users and staff has been immeasurable in its success, and we look forward to the Court of Appeal bringing this issue into the forefront again so we can demonstrate the urgent need for nationwide buffer zones.”

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