Ealing Council has banned anti-abortion protesters from demonstrating outside a clinic which provides terminations to pregnant women.
The local authority's cabinet committee voted unanimously on Tuesday night (April 10) in favour of allowing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to create a protest-free safe zone outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Mattock Lane.
The council previously received more than 3,500 responses during a public consultation it held into the proposed PSPO .
Richard Bentley, managing director at Marie Stopes UK, described it as a "landmark decision" and said women had a right to access services without facing "harassment" .
"We are incredibly grateful to Ealing Council for recognising the emotional distress that these groups create, and for taking proportionate action to protect the privacy and dignity of women accessing our clinic in the borough," Mr Bentley said.
"This was never about protest. It was about small groups of strangers choosing to gather by our entrance gates where they could harass and intimidate women, and try to prevent them from accessing healthcare to which they are legally entitled.
"Ealing Council has sent a clear message that this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated, and that these groups have no justification for trying to involve themselves in one of the most personal decisions a woman can make.
"We know other councils have been watching this process and some are exploring similar measures to increase protection outside clinics in their areas.
"Ultimately, we believe every woman in the UK should be able to access abortion services without harassment and we hope this decision marks the beginning of the end of the harassment these groups undertake nationwide."
Anti-abortion campaigners, including several children, sang hymns and held signs reading 'Don't criminalise help' and 'No censorship zones' outside the town hall before the meeting began.
Alina Dulgheriu, a representative for campaign group Be Here For Me, told how a woman handed her a leaflet offering help as she walked into the Marie Stopes clinic, so she "went with her and got all the help I need and thanks to them I have my child".
The 34-year-old said she was offered financial, practical and moral help, as well as accommodation.
Speaking of her six-year-old daughter, she said: "She's my pride, she's my strength, without her I would not be the person I am today."
Ms Dulgheriu said the safe zone would "remove life-saving help when it's most needed".
"I was given a real choice by the woman at the gate," she added.
Commenting after the council decision, Be Here For Me spokeswoman Elizabeth Howard said: "It's what we expected, after really what can only be described as a sham consultation by the council. It was skewed right from the beginning.
"Residents were asked whether we agreed with pro-lifers not being allowed to say 'murderer'.
"Now no pro-lifer I know would ever call someone a murderer because we're here to support women who maybe feel they don't have any other choice than abortion and don't want an abortion."
Prior to the meeting, John Hansen Brevetti, clinical operations manager at the clinic, said women using its services had been told "mummy, mummy don't kill me" and that the ghost of their foetus would haunt them, as well as having holy water thrown on them and rosary beads thrust in their direction.
And speaking afterwards, he added: "We can't wait for the PSPO to come into effect so that our patients can finally access the clinic free from intimidation and harassment after two decades.
"We're also so hopeful that this is just the beginning, that other councils are watching and taking note, that Parliament itself, the home affairs select committee, will continue to look at this issue and find a solution that works not just for Ealing but for the whole of the UK."
"I believe that this is something that's long been needed, so it feels good that we are actually breaking the ground with this and leading the way. So I'm proud that we are doing it," Cllr Bell said.
"I'm, personally, a practising Christian myself and so I think it's important to recognise that this is about protecting women from harassment and intimidation.
"We've always been clear that that's what this was about. It wasn't a debate for or against abortion."
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