The Manchester City Council has passed an order banning prayer vigils and peaceful protests around the Marie Stopes abortion clinic, the Christian Institute reports Friday.
The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) has set up a buffer zone around the clinic in Fallowfield, within which people are forbidden to pray, distribute pro-life literature, or speak to anyone about abortion, measures pro-lifers have called “draconian” and an infringement on “freedom of speech.”
The one concession made by the council is a small designated space within the buffer zone where no more than three people may silently demonstrate with small placards.
Within the Restricted Area no person shall “protest, namely engage in any act of approval/disapproval or attempted act of approval/disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services by any means,” the PSPO reads. “This includes but is not limited to graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling.”
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People are also prohibited from displaying or distributing “any text or images relating directly or indirectly to the termination of pregnancy,” the order adds.
Within the small Designated Zone no person may “display any individual poster, text or image, singularly or collectively greater that one sheet of A3 paper,” it establishes.
The International Director at 40 Days for Life, Robert Colquhoun, said that up to now the pro-life vigils have always been “peaceful, prayerful, and legal.” His group will comply with the law, he said, but will continue praying outside the buffer zone.
Marie Stopes International, one of the world’s largest abortion providers, has been campaigning for buffer zones around all abortion clinics in Great Britain, insisting that “the UK is a pro-choice nation.”
“We are a firmly pro-choice nation, but sadly, a small minority of people believe otherwise and would like to see the country take a backwards step on abortion,” Marie Stopes UK Managing Director Richard Bentley wrote last year.
“These anti-abortion groups who gather outside clinics have a detrimental impact on women, our team members and residents, and whether their behaviour is subtle or overt, it is a form of discrimination against women and targeted street harassment,” he said.
The Christian Institute said that the Manchester PSPO “could be challenged at the High Court.”