Pro-life protesters have launched a High Court challenge against a council ruling which bans them from approaching women entering an abortion clinic.
A new buffer zone, unanimously approved by Ealing Council, came into force outside the Marie Stopes facility on Mattock Lane in the west London borough on Monday.
It prevents demonstrators from coming within 300 metres of the clinic entrance, where they had been regularly approaching women to hand them leaflets and rosary beads and laying out pictures of foetuses in various stages of development.
Ealing councillors, clinic staff and nearby residents said the protesters’ behaviour amounted to harassment and intimidation and the decision to implement a ‘safe zone’ was made after they repeatedly refused to stop operating directly outside the building.
Now Alina Dulgheriu, a member of main protest group Be Here For Me, is launching a High Court bid to challenge the council’s ruling, which she claims is “Draconian” and “criminalises prayer”.
Dulgheriu gave evidence to the council’s cabinet before it implemented its decision and said she changed her mind about having an abortion after being approached outside a clinic.
“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 clinic,” she said.
“I am launching my legal challenge at the High Court to ensure that all women at Ealing and across the country do not have a vital support option removed. In doing this I represent the thousands of women who have been helped by these vigils.
“What sort of a society criminalises charity that is wanted and welcomed by many? Britain has a reputation for being a liberal, caring society, but what is liberal or caring about censoring free speech, banning charity and ignoring women who need help?”
Police were outside the clinic on Monday morning to implement the new public spaces protection order - the first of its kind in the UK. Pro-choice group Sister Supporter, who lobbied for the ban, said they would not be at the site because they intended to respect the safe zone.
Council leader Julian Bell said he was confident the measures were “a proportionate and necessary response” to the behaviours exhibited by the protesters.