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A buffer zone will be created outside Bournemouth Abortion Clinic | Abortion

A large buffer zone is set up around a Dorset clinic to prevent anti-abortion campaigners from harassing service users and staff.

The area will cover six streets around the British Pregnancy Advice Service clinic in Bournemouth and will operate 12 hours a day, five days a week for the next three years.

Anyone caught protesting, harassing, intimidating or photographing visitors or staff could face a fixed £100 fine or face conviction in a magistrates court.

Women have complained of being followed inside the clinic or being accosted when they leave. They reported being told “the baby loved them” or being asked if they knew they were “murdering babies” inside the building.

A worker told the Guardian she had seen “numerous customers in distress”, including one who injured herself trying to scale a wall to avoid walking past protesters.

In another serious incident, an individual dressed in a monk’s cassock followed a member of staff down the street in the dark while recording him.

Protesters also brought in plastic fetal models, pushed leaflets through car doors, called the women “mummies” and hung baby clothes from a hedge.

A user of the service said: “It was really intimidating. You’re in a really vulnerable situation and you have all these people yelling at you and telling you you’re going to hell.

The Ordinance on the Protection of Public Spaces (PSPO) comes into force on Thursday. It indicates that the nature of the restricted manifestation includes “graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or advice”.

It also covers “holding vigils where members pray audibly, recite scripture, kneel, sprinkle holy water on the floor, or cross themselves if they perceive a service user passing by.”

Bobbie Dove, portfolio holder for community safety and regulation for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council, said: “Dorset council and police teams have worked extremely hard to understand the difficulties and experiences of people visiting or working at the clinic.

“We tried to find a negotiated position, which could be accepted by all parties concerned, but it did not come to fruition.

“We then launched a two-month consultation on options for the region and the strength of support for the introduction of a PSPO was evident from the number of responses we received.

“While we recognize everyone’s right to peaceful protest, we have had to weigh this against the distress caused or likely to be caused.”

Inspector Joe Wheable, of Bournemouth Police, said: “Dorset Police recognize the right of people to hold peaceful protest, but we also recognize that everyone has the right to access medical services without being subjected to distress.”

The clinic is located in a residential cul-de-sac, a 10-minute walk from the train station. One of the building’s windows had to be fitted with special film so that protesters could not look inside.

The council is following in the footsteps of Ealing council, which implemented a buffer zone around a clinic in 2018.

Sister Supporter Bournemouth, who campaigned for a buffer zone, tweeted that she was “delighted”. The Ealing Sister Supporter group tweeted their congratulations, calling what was happening the “worst anti-choice harassment outside a clinic in the UK”.

There were 2,241 responses to the consultation, with 75% of respondents in favor of the principle of setting up a PSPO and 24% opposed.

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