Abortion clinic buffer zones set dangerous precedent for freedom of speech campaigners

“We would urge the council and police to use existing powers, targeting specific problems and violations of the law,” the letter says.  Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Abortion clinic buffer zones set a “dangerous precedent” for freedom of speech, campaigners have warned as they bid to overturn them. Civil liberties groups have written to the seven councils who are currently considering public space protection orders to stop “pro-life” campaigners from standing outside abortion clinics to protest, warning that they impose “potentially unlawful restrictions on the rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression”.The letter, signed by Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship and anti-regulation group the Manifesto Club, as well as human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, argues that the move would “unfairly inhibit lawful protest and sets a dangerous precedent for freedoms in the UK”. Ealing Council in west London has already implemented such an order after the action was unanimously approved by the council in April. Its order was “so widely drawn as to impose potentially unlawful restrictions on the rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression,” the campaigners said. They said public order laws already prevented campaigners from harassing or abusing women as they entered or left a clinic. “If policing were increased at the site, it could be seen if violations of these laws were occurring, and rights could be protected accordingly.  Seven councils are reportedly considering following Ealing’s lead by introducing an order preventing protesters from standing directly outside clinics. The orders are intended to protect those using the clinics after abortion providers and pro-choice groups said that women were “intimidated” by anti-abortion protests or vigils.They said some protesters stood outside the clinics holding placards showing graphic images of aborted foetuses.Last week Ireland overwhelmingly voted to remove the eighth amendment, which enshrined a ban on abortion in its constitution.  Show more read more