Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh has challenged Home Secretary Amber Rudd to confirm her commitment to the right to peaceful protest, and resist the campaign to set up so-called buffer zones outside abortion clinics.
The veteran Conservative backbencher claimed that if peaceful protest outside abortion centres was banned, the government would have to ban them at hunts and animal life laboratories.
Buffer zones would in theory protect women wanting an abortion from abuse and intimidation as they entered the clinic.
MPs heard in December 2017 that staff at the centres have been followed to their cars and called “murderers” while women having abortions have been told they will “die of cancer” by the most extreme pro-life protesters.
However, pro-life campaigners have claimed that women have changed their minds about having an abortion after listening to support from activists outside the clinics.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, January 8, the Gainsborough MP reiterated his objections to the buffer zones.
He said: “Will the Home Secretary confirm her commitment to the right to peaceful protest in this country?
“Given that there have been no successful prosecutions for harassment outside abortion agencies in recent history, will she resist the campaign to set up buffer zones?
“Does she accept that if peaceful protest outside abortion agencies is banned, the government will also have to ban it, for instance, at hunts and outside animal life laboratories?”
The Home Secretary said her government was committed to ensuring peaceful protest could continue, but also to making sure women could have abortions free from intimidation.
She said: “My hon. Friend and I have already met to discuss this, and it was a pleasure to meet him and various colleagues to discuss their concerns about the continuation of peaceful protests.
“I hope that I was able to reassure him that it is this government’s plan always to ensure that peaceful protests can continue, wherever that is.
“It is also this government’s commitment to make sure that women can access abortion safe from harassment and intimidation.”