FSRH press release: medical leaders call for national legislation to tackle harassment around abortion clinics in the UK
Date: 30 May 2022
Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements
Embargoed for Monday 00.05 30 May 2022
- Leading Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare body representing more than 14,000 doctors in the UK has released a new Position Statement today, calling for national legislation to prevent the harassment and intimidation of patients and healthcare professionals outside abortion clinics in the UK.
- The position was passed by the Council of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) and reaffirms what FSRH has long advocated for - the introduction of safe access zones around abortion clinics.
- It follows the recent announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of an emergency summit as harassment around abortion clinics ramps up in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“The ongoing intimidation and harassment of patients and staff outside facilities providing abortion care across the UK is unacceptable and cause for serious concern.
“Everyone should be able to access abortion services free of intimidation and harassment. All healthcare workers should be able to access their place of work free of judgement or fear.
“Harassment and intimidation outside clinics take many forms and causes great distress for women and girls accessing abortion care. It also makes it difficult, and demoralising, for healthcare professionals to deliver legal, essential sexual and reproductive healthcare.
“The only way to ensure patients are able to access healthcare free of harassment and intimidation is the legal implementation of buffer zones around abortion clinics across the UK.
“We call on the Home Office and devolved Governments to bring forward national legislation to protect the safety of people accessing abortion services and healthcare professionals providing care.”
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“We fully support calls for legislation to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics.
“Everyone should have the right to access healthcare services without judgement, or fear of harassment, and access to safe abortion is no exception. Abortion care is an essential sexual and reproductive health service, and buffer zones must be introduced to ensure that the privacy and rights of those who access these services are respected.
“The harassment and ongoing intimidation of women and staff outside of abortion clinics is unacceptable and would not be tolerated for any other healthcare service.”
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Notes to Editors
- The new position statement can be found here.
- First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has committed to chairing a roundtable summit to discuss buffer zones in Scotland following harassment outside Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow mid-May, weeks after several similar demonstrations organised by American Christian group, 40 Days For Life, took place elsewhere in Scotland.
- Scottish Green Party MSP Gillian Mackay launched a consultation on her legislative proposal to designate protest free ‘buffer zones’ outside abortion clinics across the nation.
- Progress has been made in Northern Ireland, and a Bill creating safe zones in the immediate vicinity of abortion clinics awaits royal assent. However, it is being delayed from becoming law as it has been referred to the UK Supreme Court. Further information on Northern Ireland’s Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill can be found here.
- In the UK Parliament, a cross-party amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill led by Rupa Huq MP and Bernard Jenkin MP was supported at Committee Stage by over 35 MPs from across five different parties.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ.