London, England, Sep 25, 2018 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders and pro-life advocates in England and Wales are praising the government’s decision not to impose buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout the territory, allowing peaceful protests to continue.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejected proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout England and Wales as disproportionate in a Sept. 13 decision, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive. He added that there were “relatively few” reports of “aggressive activities”, and noted that in 2017, only 36 of the 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales that offer abortions have experienced pro-life demonstrations near their facilities.
Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster praised the Home Office’s “proportionate” decision in a Sept. 17 statement.
“It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions except when they could cause grave harm to others or a threat to public order,” Bishop Sherrington said.
“The freedom to assemble and express concern for both the good of the mother and the unborn person is an aspect of the furthering of the common good which involves the care for the unborn, whom we believe must be protected from harm.”
Bishop Sherrington also acknowledged Javid’s point that while “peaceful, dignified” protest is to be commended and makes up the great majority of what takes place, the forceful harassment of women outside clinics must end.
“It is an unacceptable situation if any people harass or intimidate women visiting clinics, even if such situations are rare,” the bishop said. “It is clearly not the case that all action is of this nature, and the distinctions between persons and groups should be examined further.”
Dr. John Edwards of Nottingham 40 Days for Life, a pro-life group in the East Midlands, echoed Bishop Sherrington’s sentiments. Edwards was issued a court injunction by the Nottingham City Council ahead of a planned protest in March, which was subsequently thrown out by a judge.
“As Sajid Javed pointed out, the police already have powers to prevent any abusive behaviour,” Edwards told the Nottingham Post Sept. 23. “Nottingham police have consistently confirmed that our prayer vigil has always been completely peaceful and respectful.”
The decision to reject nationwide buffer zones comes after the High Court of England and Wales upheld a buffer zone imposed by Ealing Council, in west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, within about 330 feet of the clinic. The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) governing the zone is temporary and must be renewed in three year’s time, with a review to be held after six months.
Two pro-life London women are working to have the decision appealed, including Alina Dulgheriu, who chose to forgo an abortion at the Ealing clinic in question after being offered pro-life support.