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RCOG and FSRH urge UK Government to back buffer zone amendment

News 2 July 2021

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) support the cross-party amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, introduced by Dr Rupa Huq MP, which would create buffer zones around abortion clinics. The RCOG and FSRH urge the UK Government to back the implementation buffer zones in this Bill to prevent the harassment of women accessing healthcare.

Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“We support the introduction of buffer zones around abortion clinics. Abortion is a lawful and necessary sexual and reproductive healthcare service, and buffer zones ensure the safety of both women and healthcare professionals.

“The harassment seen around clinics includes fear, intimidation and individuals providing erroneous information about abortion. This causes great distress for women accessing the clinics and also makes the staff feel threatened. The space immediately outside a clinic should not be an area where people can physically intimidate women seeking to access healthcare.

“The UK Government must finally act to protect the safety of women and support the amendment. This would not be tolerated for any other healthcare service.”

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said:

“The ongoing intimidation and harassment of patients and staff outside facilities providing abortion care in the UK is cause for serious concern.

This harassment takes many forms and can cause great distress for women – as well as making it difficult for healthcare professionals to deliver essential, legal healthcare.

Even quiet protest can be intimidating, and the distribution of erroneous, false information can be dangerous for women’s health and safety. In some cases, protests cause such distress that women defer their treatment.

Women’s privacy must be protected as much as possible when they access abortion services and all staff working to provide these services should have the right to work without judgement, intimidation or fear. Current legal protection fails to do this.

We have pressed the case for buffer zones for several years and believe that their introduction through national legislation is the only way to offer protection to women receiving, and staff providing, abortion care.”

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0) 7986 183167 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

Notes to editors

The amendment tabled by Rupa Huq MP can be found here as New Clause 42.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision. 

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. You can find further information here.