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RCOG and FSRH call for legal implementation of UK abortion clinic safe access zones within Public Order Bill

27 Jan 2023
  • New RCOG and FSRH report shows impact of harassment on those accessing and providing abortion care in UK

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) have published a report highlighting the need for safe access zones to be introduced around UK abortion clinics, to prevent intimidation and harassment of patients and staff.

Members of the House of Lords have supported the amendment to the Public Order Bill and so now the amendment will go back through the House of Commons.

Current legal protections are failing to prevent harassment at abortion clinics. Out of the 50 clinics and hospitals that have been targeted with harassment in the last five years, only five are now protected using Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs). PSPOs are applied for by a local authority, through a timely and expensive process to introduce, and are also expensive to maintain.

The report details the impact that this protest activity has on those accessing abortion care. One patient accessing care in 2022 recounts what happened when they arrived after a seven and a half hour drive to a clinic:

“They came over twice and we said ‘no thank you’. She was very pushy, in your face. I found it rude and judgmental. It has left me cross and anxious. I suffer from [poor] mental health. When we walked past, she said ‘your baby wants to live’.

Even quiet protest can be intimidating, and can cause emotional or psychological harm to those accessing services. The report raises concerns that protestors have also been distributing inaccurate, false information that can be dangerous for patients’ health and safety.

The establishment of safe access zones outside clinics and hospitals that provide abortion services would ensure that anti-choice activity cannot take place. Protests can also negatively affect the wellbeing of healthcare professionals trying to deliver essential, legal healthcare. One staff member at a clinic in Bournemouth said:

"As staff coming into work it makes it very intimidating parking and walking past protesters. They have followed me to my car before – shouting ‘murderer’ at me. It just fills you with dread leaving and arriving to work."

The introduction of a 150m safe access zone around all abortion services in England and Wales would ensure that all patients will have equal access to legal healthcare without harassment, and all staff who provide that healthcare will not have to walk past protestors as they attend their place of work.


Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“Women have the right to access essential healthcare without fear of intimidation or harassment. It is unacceptable that there is a postcode lottery where only a very few clinics are protected by Public Spaces Protection Orders. National legislation must be introduced to stop anti-choice organisations imposing stigma, guilt and shame on those accessing, and providing this essential health service. This would not be tolerated for any other area of healthcare.” 

Dr Janet Barter, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said:

“All women should be able to access safe and local abortion care services when needed. However, intimidation and harassment outside facilities providing care has been cause for serious concern for some time.

“FSRH strongly believes that safe access zones are critical to ensure that women are able to safely access this essential form of healthcare, and to end the intimidation of staff who are providing a lawful and necessary sexual and reproductive healthcare service.

“We have pressed the case for safe access zones for several years. I am pleased that we have worked with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to collate evidence on the impact of clinic harassment and the need for an effective solution to protect women and healthcare professionals.”


For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)7740 175342 or email

Notes to editors

  • Read the full report: Safe access zones around abortion clinics.
  • An amendment to introduce safe access zones around abortion clinics to the Public Order Bill was tabled by Stella Creasy MP at Report Stage in the House of Commons with MPs supporting New Clause 11 by 297 v 110 on the 18th
  • The Public Order Bill will face Report Stage in the House of Lords on 30th Baroness Sugg has tabled an updated amendment to the Bill, which Peers will vote on, on Monday.
  • Policy and governance
  • Abortion