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Parliament backs nationwide buffer zones

Freedom of Speech
8 March 2023
Isabel Second Arrest

Last night in the House of Commons, MPs backed new measures for nationwide buffer zones around abortion facilities.

'Buffer zones' will be rolled out across England and Wales, with campaigners warning 'thoughtcrime' is to be included in British law.

MPs were debating and voting on amendments to the Public Order Bill when the legislation passed through the House of Lords.

Clause 10 of the Bill sets out a new buffer zone policy that will see all forms of 'influence' near abortion clinics effectively criminalised.

During the debates on Clause 10, some Peers and MPs used routine arguments about harassment of women facing a crisis pregnancy.

CARE has been very clear that any genuine harassment is wrong, however, there are existing laws to address that particular issue.

In 2018, a major data collection exercise concluded that harassment is vanishingly rare and most activity outside abortion facilities is peaceful.

An attempt to provide exemptions for silent prayer and consensual discussions outside abortion facilities was rejected by 299-116 votes.

In an example of what this vote could mean, just days ago, pro-life charity worker Isabelle Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for a second time for praying near an abortion facility in Birmingham.

Legal counsel for advocacy group ADF UK, Jeremiah Igunnubole responded:

“Today’s vote marks a watershed moment for fundamental rights and freedoms in our country. Parliament had an opportunity to reject the criminalisation of free thought, which is an absolute right, and embrace individual liberty for all. Instead, Parliament chose to endorse censorship and criminalise peaceful activities such as silent prayer and consensual conversation,
Jeremiah Igunnubole Legal Counsel

CARE Response

The outcome means for the first time ever, the UK parliament has passed into law a 'thoughtcrime'. The outcome raises very serious questions about genuine free speech. How can the police possibly be expected to know if someone is praying about abortion in their head?

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