I felt intimated and scared to go into the clinic. I felt judged and uncomfortable. Not a nice feeling at all.
If it was my first appointment I probably wouldn’t have come in. I had to phone a family member as I didn’t want to walk past.
A lot of protestors, felt extremely intimidated & suffering from severe anxiety & depression already. These people do not help.
I feel that they do not understand how hard it is to make this decision and their presence makes it so much harder.
When arriving people were outside with signs it made me scared to come in and I was physically shaking. They shouldn’t be allowed to stand outside and people to be made to feel like this.
Having leaflets shoved in my face disregarding a much-thought about decision and being told I’d be ‘prayed for’ is an invasion of privacy in my view tantamount to harassment
I am in a total state, heart pounding. Total disgrace that someone has just started harassing me about abortion. Someone needs to stop this now.
They left a poor girl in tears after speaking to her. I told them it was none of their business. This is extremely upsetting for everyone after having to make such a difficult decision.

The Campaign

The problem:

Every day, across the country, women are accessing abortion care from providers like BPAS. Getting an abortion is, for many women, a deeply personal and private decision that carries a heavy emotional burden. Unfortunately, too many women are exposed to groups of anti-abortion protesters outside clinics. Encounters with these groups leave women feeling judged, intimidated, and distressed – and in the worst cases, too scared to get to their appointment.

Anti-choice groups try to deter and prevent women from accessing abortion care in many ways including:

  • The display of graphic images of dismembered foetuses
  • Large marches that gather outside clinics
  • Filming women and staff members
  • Following women down the street
  • Throwing holy water on clinic sites
  • Large gatherings of people who sing hymns and recite dedicated anti-abortion prayers loudly enough to be heard inside clinics
  • Handing out leaflets containing false medical information such as that abortion causes breast cancer, leads to suicidal ideation, and can lead to child abuse
  • Handing out advertisements for dangerous and unproven medication to ‘reverse’ an abortion.

Abortion care is legal – and women deserve to access it without fear of being targeted in the street. The police are often called to help but are unable to take action to protect women due to a lack of legislation under which they could charge perpetrators – there is a simple piece of legislation that could change this.

The solution:

The introduction of legislation that would create buffer zones around all abortion clinics. This would mean that certain activities could not take place within 150 meters of abortion clinics – including the filming of women accessing services, harassment and intimidation, stopping women in an attempt to change their mind about accessing services, and advertising dangerous and unproven medication.

Currently, three local authorities have public space protection orders (PSPOs) in place to create buffer zones outside clinics, however securing a PSPO is a complex and expensive process for local authorities and creates a postcode lottery of protection for women.

We know that local police up and down the country wish they could do more to support women who face this harassment and would welcome the introduction of buffer zones. Harassment outside abortion clinics is a national problem that requires a national solution.

What you can do:

Women’s Lived Experiences:

“The protestor was stood by the entrance with a banner. My daughter is autistic and this procedure is stressful and traumatic – and when she realised they were outside is caused her to have a panic attack…” – Client’s mother, June 2021

“Two men were waiting outside the clinic and approaching any women who entered and trying to give them anti-abortion leaflets. I cried in the car – it was already a horrible day and the thought of being harassed for my decision was too much for me. I felt threatened and intimidated…” Client, December 2020

“3 people outside with a plastic foetus on a table. They were asking clients what treatment they’re having and saying they’ll die if they take pills.” Clinic manager, March 2020

“The young client had been so upset and distressed that she ran back over towards her Mum’s car… Her Mum walked her back over and the girl who was wearing a black hoodie had pulled the hood all around her head and face to hide away and was crying hysterically and visibly shaken… The client in question didn’t have her surgical treatment as planned that day, she was too distressed.” Clinic staff, Taunton, February 2020

The Stats: