This week we welcomed the announcement by Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to review police powers to prevent harassment and intimidation of women outside family planning clinics.
We’re cautiously optimistic, however, that a simple restatement of current police powers to tackle the problem would not be sufficient. Many of you who have dealt with Police at clinic ‘vigils’ will be familiar with the phrases ‘There’s nothing we can do’ and ‘This is a grey area”. We need to make sure that these local officers voices are head, the clinic staff are heard, residents are heard and most importantly the people using the clinic are heard.
Anna Veglio-White, our spokesperson, said:
‘There is an occasional police presence at the Ealing clinic, but we believe their current powers regarding protest and harassment are not suitable to deal with the situation faced daily by women visiting the clinic. This has gone on for far too long, and we will not stop until women and pregnant people are able to access legal healthcare services free from intimidation and harassment.
The Home Secretary’s announcement follows the concerted campaign for a national solution to the problem by Ealing Central and Acton MP, Rupa Huq. Ms Huq, who wrote a letter with support of 113 other MPs (including leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn and Leader of Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable) called on the Government to take action to stop this abuse of people using these clinics.
The campaign for national legislation has run in parallel to our local campaign, petitioning Ealing Council to set up an area of protection for women around the Marie Stopes clinic. In October 2017, we presented Ealing Council with a dossier of evidence of harassment, including photographs, video, audio and written witness statements and, as a result, Councillors voted unanimously to bring an end to the vigils outside the clinic.