The Lead Bishop for Life Issues at the Bishops’ Conference, the Rt Revd John Sherrington, expressed his dismay after MPs voted in favour of an amendment to a Bill that could make it a criminal offence to breach 150-metre ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics.
MPs backed the amendment to the Government’s Public Order Bill on Tuesday evening, 18 October, by 297 votes to 110.
“I am disappointed with last night’s vote, which amended the Public Order Bill so as to impose ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics nationwide. If the Bill passes all its parliamentary stages, then women facing a crisis pregnancy will be denied access to alternative choices and practical support. Many women and their unborn children have been helped as a result of such peaceful vigils at abortion clinics. In 2018, the Health Secretary argued that extra legislation was unnecessary to regulate these vigils.
“This amendment raises larger concerns about freedom of religion, belief, expression and association. Whilst these rights have to be balanced against the rights and freedoms of others, these are already guaranteed by laws designed to prevent harassment outside clinics and this amendment is not necessary.
“This amendment makes peaceful presence, prayerful witness and the offer of practical support to those most in need a crime, punishable by fine or imprisonment. It is a sad day for democracy, for women and unborn children, and this amendment does not serve the common good.
“We will continue to oppose this amended Bill and continue to pray for and offer support to pregnant women and their unborn children.”