Ealing Council has confirmed it has decided to keep the safe zone around the MSI Reproductive Choices UK centre in place until 2024.

The public spaces protection order (PSPO) around the Mattock Lane Safe Zone was due to end this April, and it was the first of its kind when it was introduced in 2018.

The renewal of the buffer zone will mean that people can continue to access the centre privately, and free from harassment or intimidation.

Louise McCudden, MSI Reproductive Choices’ UK Advocacy and Public Affairs Advisor, described the sense of relief after hearing the news.

She said: “The main thing to always remember is that abortion is an essential medical service and I think it sometimes isn't seen in that way.

“We understand that you have the right to access medical care safely with privacy and with dignity, and PSPOs have been the only way so far that we've been able to successfully protect that right and keep it safe.”

The PSPO was put in place after it was reported that those protesting in the clinic’s vicinity had a detrimental effect on the locality, including residents, visitors to the clinic, staff and those passing through the area.

McCudden explained that harassment and intimidation not only had an emotional impact, but a clinical one, as people would often reschedule or cancel appointments.

She said: “When your goal is to actually intimidate people out of accessing a particular service that they decided to access, then that becomes something different, and they also hand out medical misinformation sometimes which is very dangerous.”

There had been appeals to remove the PSPO by protestors, which were rejected.

MSI recorded a number of incidents where both visitors and staff were abused by protestors.

McCudden said: “A staff member in Ealing went to defend a patient coming in, they actually went outside and were racially abused by some of the activists.”

McCudden said that the services MSI provides allows people to access clear and accurate information so they can make the choice for themselves.

She said the public needed to realise how important it is to have conservations surrounding abortion to take away the stigma and shame.

Sister Supporter, an Ealing-based pro-choice and anti-harassment organisation, were delighted with the news.

A spokesperson said: “We are extremely relieved that Ealing Council has renewed the safe zone for the full three years permitted.”

The organisation said they are certain that if the safe zone was not extended, intimidation and harassment that took place at the clinic gate for over 23 years would return and is highly likely that the anti-choice activities would increase in both frequency and seriousness.

MSI hopes that buffer zones will be considered by the Home Office for nationalisation, to protect the privacy and interests of those who use the clinic’s services around the country.

Sister Supporter’s spokesperson said: “The safe zone is not about freedom of expression, it's about preventing harassment.”

To find out more about MSI Reproductive Choices UK, please visit their website.


Featured image credit: Ealing Council