Women attending Lambeth’s abortion clinics will from now on be able to report any incidents including harassment and intimidation immediately, with the help of an electronic tool developed by council officers. Individuals and organised groups have co-ordinated their activities outside abortion clinics in Lambeth for several years – often through protests and vigils. They have, in particular, targeted women seeking abortions causing upset, anger and distress to services users at a difficult and private moment in their lives.
Service users, members of the public and clinic staff will be able to report incidents immediately using their smartphones or tablets, by scanning the Quick Response (QR) code, or following the link www.lambeth.gov.uk/abortion-clinic-incident. The council wants to know how service users, members of the public and staff feel, and get a better understanding of any difficulties accessing the clinic or distressing language and materials used.
Cllr Jim Dickson, Lambeth Cabinet Member for the Voluntary Sector & Partnerships, said: “While everyone has the right to protest peacefully, it’s completely unacceptable for women to be subject to intimidation and harassment simply for exercising their legal right to access abortion services. When attending the clinics, women must walk past people bearing placards with graphic imagery and handing out leaflets with false or misleading medical information. We’re committed to protecting these women from this sort of anti-social behaviour. This tool will help us to identify intimidation and harassment whenever they happen outside Lambeth’s clinics, so we can tackle it for the good of the community.”
Early last year, Lambeth Council conducted a public consultation on whether or not it should introduce a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to address concerns about the activity of protests/ vigils outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) Clinic in Streatham and the Marie Stopes Clinic in Brixton. The outcome of this consultation is now published on our website in conjunction, along with an explanatory statement, and can be found here. Local residents overwhelmingly supported the action proposed. The council has decided not to proceed with making a PSPO at this stage – although that doesn’t remove the possibility of introducing a PSPO in relation to Lambeth’s abortion clinics in the future.