It was in November 2014 that I decided to start a petition on Change.org, calling on the Home Office to create buffer zones around abortion clinics. I had just watched a YouTube video featuring a woman confronting anti-abortion protestors, it made me feel incredibly angry that this was allowed to happen.
I have to confess that until I had watched this video, I had no idea that this was going on. However, once I knew about these protests, I knew I had to do something about it. Upon further investigation, I was amazed to find that the police said that there is nothing that they can do to remove the protestors. The only solution to rectify this is a change in the law.
Clinic staff and their clients would be able to have protestors removed in an instant. The government cannot keep telling us that the law is adequate whilst these protests continue and police are telling clinics that their hands are tied. It is more than disappointing that I have had such a poor response from the Home Office after presenting the petition to No.10 Downing Street. With the petition reaching almost 160,000 supporters now, it is unacceptable that the Home Office are ignoring the concerns of so many.
Many have told me that my petition is restricting freedom of speech. This is not about banning protests, just moving them to a safe distance away from women accessing the clinics. If these protests are about educating women about abortion (which I find to be an incredibly patronising reason) and not to intimidate, then I cannot see why a legal buffer zone would be an issue for them. Women have spoken about being followed by protestors, shouted at, not to forget making these women walk past the questionable images they have on display.
I've also heard concerns over the rights of staff to strike and picket outside of their place of work being taken away by the implementation of buffer zones. No doubt it will be simple enough to ensure that this law is completely focussed on anti-abortion protestors. Westminster have a buffer zone for their MPs and laboratories conducting animal testing were allowed zones preventing protestors from getting close. It is shameful that women needing medical advice and care are not extended the same right to privacy and safety. The lack of care that this government shows for women is indicative of the patriarchal society in which we live but that does not mean that we have to put up with it.
More recently, I have been greatly concerned to read reports that a clinic has had to close due to the actions of protestors. This has led me to conclude that even a woman's right to an abortion is slowly being eroded. There is too much at stake for this issue to be swept under the carpet. Protestors need to remember that abortion is legal in the UK. They may not agree with abortion but that does not mean they should be allowed to cause such distress to women who have decided to have an abortion.
There is so much focus on the rights of embryos and foetuses, do any of the protestors care about the women? The saying 'damned if you do and damned if you don't' springs to mind. Bringing up a child is an amazing yet consuming experience. If a woman were persuaded to continue with her pregnancy, who will be there for her at 2am when the baby has colic, who will be there for her when she can't afford to buy food? Add to this, the cuts to tax credits and other benefit cuts, it is not hard to see that there is also an anti-motherhood sentiment out there.
I can speak from experience, I am a single mother of three children. I've also suffered a miscarriage and had an abortion. All my emotions and rational surrounding these pregnancies were different. If I had not have had my abortion, I would not have had my third child. Her life would have been prevented by continuing with the previous pregnancy. Life is never as simple as these protestors would have us believe.
Above all else, women should and must be trusted to make their own decisions about what happens to their body. This is the human life we have to fight for and protect.