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Abortion buffer zone laws could be watered down

18 January 2024
Pro life vigil

Reports have emerged suggesting the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, will water down guidance on how the new abortion clinic buffer zone law will work in practice.

According to some sources, official guidance to be published soon could still allow silent prayer within the zone. People will also be allowed to approach women attending an abortion clinic to discuss the issue.

MPs last year voted in an amendment to the Public Order Act to introduce nationwide buffer zones after claims women were being harassed by pro-life campaigners.

According to iNews, the draft guidance says:

The term ‘influence’ is not defined in the statute and therefore takes its ordinary dictionary meaning. The government would expect ‘influence’ to require more than mere mention of abortion or the provision of information. As such, informing, discussing, or offering help, does not necessarily amount to ‘influence’.

Prayer within a safe access zone should not automatically be seen as unlawful. Prayer has long received legal protection in the United Kingdom and these protections have not changed.

Silent prayer, being the engagement of the mind and thought in prayer towards God, is protected as an absolute right under the Human Rights Act 1998 and should not, on its own, be considered to be an offence under any circumstances. However, where an individual is praying, but their conduct is also intrusive, this is likely to be an offence under [the amendment].”
Draft guidance on buffer zone law

The Home Office is currently consulting on the non-statutory guidance on abortion clinic buffer zones and the final version will be published once all the responses have been considered.

Charity CARE has engaged with parliament and government on this issue, saying that while genuine harassment was wrong, any buffer zone law risked fundamentally undermining freedom of speech.

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In any pregnancy, both the woman and preborn baby have inherent value and dignity, by virtue of being made in the image of God. CARE is passionately pro-woman and pro-life.

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