Abortion buffer zones: a UK challenge to core democratic values is now the law of the land

May 19, 2023 by

by Ilaria Bertini, MercatorNet:

The right to express your views should be considered a pillar of every democratic society.

On 2 May 2023 the Public Order Bill, an year after it was announced in Westminster in the House of Commons, received  Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament.

Its aim is to crack down on disruptive protests in England and Wales, mainly led by environmental groups. In the past year these have “forced thousands of police officers away from the critical work of protecting their communities”. Just in October, “the Metropolitan Police made more than 650 arrests in relation to Just Stop Oil activity in London.”

The Act, described by many as draconian legislation which undermines freedom of speech and thought, turns not only actions such as blocking roads, occupying tunnels, obstruction of major transport works etc. into criminal offences — but also any attempt to influence access to or provision of abortion services (Clause 9) however silent and passive in nature.

Recently the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed his concerns about the Public Order Bill, urging the UK to reconsider this “deeply troubling legislation.”

On numerous occasions Clause 9 has sparked concerns that it might become a law which seriously undermines freedom of expression. It is a “sledgehammer to crack a nut,” as Lord Cormack has observed. It states that: “A person who is within a buffer zone and who interferes with any person’s decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services in that buffer zone is guilty of an offence”.

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