Neighbors at a Birmingham abortion clinic say years of protests in their street have left residents feeling “miserable and helpless” and service users in tears. Complaints have been made against ‘pro-life’ activists handing out graphic leaflets, chanting and blocking access to women using the Robert Clinic in Kings Norton.
Birmingham City Council has launched a consultation to ban all anti-abortion protests near the Station Road facility by introducing a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). According to the consultation documents, members of the anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life appear before the clinic twice a year in the fall and during Lent for 40 consecutive days each time, as well as twice a week. throughout the year.
The protests have reportedly led to verbal and, on occasion, physical clashes, with West Midlands Police recording an increase in anti-social behavior in the area. Neighbors also complained that upsetting leaflets were pushed through the doors, including one promoting abortion cancellation procedures, which is widely seen as an unproven and potentially dangerous form of treatment by British health officials.
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The group had already had a presence outside the Calthorpe Clinic in Edgbaston for nine years before it closed. Local resident Liz Bates is one of 60 neighbors to form the group ‘Reclaiming our Road’ which campaigns for the PSPO.
She told BirminghamLive: “This particular group is mostly silent, but they’re setting up chairs, kneeling in the street, showing off, sprinkling what we think is holy water and singing and praying in the street. People who live opposite can hear this from inside their homes.
“There were regular arguments and I often had to stop my car to broadcast clashes. Residents also had to comfort women leaving the clinic who were upset because of their interaction with these protesters.
“They are persistent and intrusive and they harass and intimidate women who access the clinic. I am only a local resident but I am very passionate about access to healthcare and have no barriers to that.
“My personal views are pro-choice, but in our group we have a range of views. We’re in a pretty unique position because we have an abortion clinic down the road and a Catholic church down the road. the other – but everyone in our group is united in our horror of people pushing their opinions on women in these circumstances.
“People get heated up a lot because it causes a lot of strong feelings. It’s a steady drip, drip with the protesters and then something blows up and there’s an incident – it’s always a very tense and we know it has caused tension in the local community.
“These protesters are not from this area and we believe this is our clinic and we will defend it and women’s right to access legal and safe healthcare.”
According to the consultation documents, the PSPO is proposed to address certain behaviors of members of pro-life and pro-choice groups. If approved, it would cover the area between Northfield Road, Beaumont Road, the A4040 Watford Road and Selly Oak Road.
The document reads: “The activities complained of relate to protesters who made their disapproval of clinic users, visitors and employees known by distributing leaflets, including leaflets with disturbing and graphic images, praying, chanting, singing hymns, harassing and bullying behaviors including blocking the path to the clinic approaching those entering the clinic, blocking the sidewalk, making their views known to anyone in in the proposed restricted area, including children, depriving those using the clinic of their ability to present themselves in confidence, without intimidation or judgment.
“The protests have led to verbal and sometimes physical clashes between protesters and other members of the public, including local residents. Local residents have reported the effect that protester activities and the presence of protesters have had on their quality of life, including not being able to enjoy their home and garden, having to explain the protesters’ presence and purpose to their own young children, and their mental health being affected by the continued presence of the protest at the outside their homes or while they go about their daily business Residents felt upset about the effect the protesters’ presence is having on those who use the clinic.
He goes on to say that “Police and PCSOs spend a lot of time on incidents related to protesters at the Robert Clinic and patrolling the area.” Staff and service users have complained about explicit signs, including one that says “don’t kill your baby”, with service users reporting feeling “emotional and scared” and crying.
An anonymous resident is recorded as saying: ” I could leave my curtains closed, not open my front door and not sit in my living room – then I wouldn’t have to see them, but why should I do that to protect my sanity! My living room is a lovely, sunny haven — and yet, for 80 days a year, I can’t sit in it without feeling miserable and helpless. They are there every day, even on weekends when the clinic is closed. »
A spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which runs the clinic, said: “We support the introduction of PSPO and hope this can be done as soon as possible. We have had several groups present for a long time in outside of this particular clinic and we certainly have limited confidence that it will stop unless the council takes action.
“The protest is very upsetting for customers and locals alike. It’s been going on for so long now and it’s time the council intervened. This is not a silent vigil, it’s a tangible daily threat to our service .users and it’s upsetting for people to have to walk past.
“The mission statement of this group is to end abortion, and what we are clear about is that this is legal health care that women have a right to access. These demonstrations are an obstacle to accessing this care and can discourage people.”
BirminghamLive has contacted 40 Days For Life to comment on the proposed PSPO. The consultation runs from Monday April 4 to May 23, 2022. Readers can view the consultation documents here.