MPs voted on Wednesday to restrict offers of support and help to women outside abortion clinics.
Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq’s Demonstrations (Abortion Clinics) Ten Minute Rule Bill called for legislation “to restrict demonstrations in the vicinity of abortion clinics; and for connected purposes”.
It passed in the Commons by 213 votes to 47, with those voting in favour including Opposition leader Keir Starmer, although as a Ten Minute Rule Motion it is unlikely to become law.
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce spoke out against the “regressive” motion, warning that it would undermine freedom of speech and conscience.
She told MPs: “Let me clear, I do not condone aggressive protest activities outside abortion clinics.
“But these are in the minority and imposing national legislation where it is not required to tackle these would be a drastic overreaction because of the potential damage this bill could do to the more widely held freedom of speech in this country.”
Buffer zones already exist around clinics in Ealing and Richmond, while other councils are reported to be considering them.
Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, criticised attempts to impose buffer zones.
“By attempting to restrict where women facing unplanned pregnancies can receive compassionate emotional and practical support, the ‘pro-choice’ lobby are removing real choice for women and revealing they’re really just pro-abortion,” she said.
“Today, many babies are alive because their mothers were able to get the help they needed outside of an abortion clinic.
“We would, therefore, encourage the Government not to give this Bill any more time. In doing so they would send a clear signal that women should not be denied the choice of life-saving support for them and their baby.”
Antonia Tully, Campaigns Manager at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the Bill was an attack on the rights of pro-lifers.
“This attempt to remove civil liberties from law-abiding citizens should not be forced through as restrictions on gatherings generally are lifted,” she said.
“The lockdown has meant that many women have found themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation, and will need help more than ever. As soon as it is safe to do so, pro-lifers must be allowed to offer that help.”