FSRH Consultation Response: FSRH responds to the Home Office: Abortion clinic safe access zones non-statutory guidance consultation

Posted 25 January 2024

Date: 25 Jan 2024

Type: FSRH News and Information

The Home Office is consulting on their draft of the abortion clinic safe access zones guidance, which will support the implementation of the legislation concerning safe access zones in section 9 of the Public Order Act.

In our response, we express the need for the guidance to accurately convey the protections that this legislation affords service users and providers. The primary focus of the guidance should be ensuring that women and all service users are protected from distressing and intrusive protests when accessing this essential and legal form of healthcare.

Key points in FSRH’s response:

  • We suggest that this guidance misinterprets the legislation. It does not reflect the legislation or the relevant rulings by the UK Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and High Court.
  • We advise that the exemption of silent prayer contravenes legal rulings and legislation passed, as does attributing responsibility to the police to undertake balancing exercises. Both risk undermining the protections granted by the legislation.
  • We also stress that consensual communication is not permissible under the legislation. Its exemption in this guidance from the safe access zones may limit the protection women and all service users were to be given by this legislation.
  • We advise that the guidance lacks necessary instruction in some areas, such as on the usage of cameras by protestors, as well as containing advice not based on legislation or legal rulings, such as the introduction of signage marking the safe access zone.
  • We ultimately suggest that this guidance does not fulfil the legislation’s purpose to protect service users and providers from harassment but may weaken its abilities to do so. The guidance needs revisions in order to offer the protections intended by the legislation.

You can read our response in full here.

More information on the consultation is available here.

You can read our Position Statement on Buffer Zones around Abortion Clinics here.