Neighbors of an abortion clinic in Birmingham say years of protests in their streets have made residents feel “miserable and helpless” and service users in tears. There have been complaints about “pro-life” campaigners handing out graphic leaflets, chanting and blocking access to women using the Robert Clinic in Kings Norton.
Birmingham City Council has launched a consultation to ban all abortion protests near the Station Road facility by introducing a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). According to the consultation documents, members of the anti-abortion group ’40 Days For Life ‘have set up outside the clinic twice a year in the autumn and during Lent for 40 days in a row each time, as well as twice a week. throughout the year.
The protests have reportedly led to verbal and occasional physical confrontations in which West Midlands police have registered an increase in antisocial behavior in the area. Neighbors have also complained about disturbing leaflets that have been pushed through doors, including one that promotes abortion return procedures, which are widely considered an unproven and potentially dangerous form of treatment by British health officials.
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The group had previously been present outside the Calthorpe Clinic in Edgbaston for nine years before closing. Local resident Liz Bates is among 60 neighbors to form the group ‘Reclaiming our Road’, which has campaigned in favor of PSPO.
She told BirminghamLive: “This particular group is mostly quiet, but they line up chairs, kneel in the street, brag, sprinkle what we think is holy water and sing and pray in the street. People who live opposite can hear this from inside their houses.
“There have been regular quarrels and I have often had to stop my car to disperse confrontations. Residents have also had to comfort women coming out of the clinic who are saddened by their interaction with these protesters.
“They are persistent and intrusive, and they are harassing and intimidating to women who have access to the clinic. I am only a local resident, but I am very passionate about accessing health care and not having barriers to it.
“My personal views are pro-choice, but in our group we have a number of views. We are in a very unique position because we have an abortion clinic at one end of the road and a Catholic church at the other – but all in our group is united in our disgust that people are pushing their views on women in these circumstances.
“People get very excited because it evokes a lot of strong emotions. It’s a regular drip, drip, drip with the protests, and then something explodes and an incident happens – it’s constantly a very tense situation, and we know that it has caused tensions in the local community.
“These protesters are not from this area and we strongly feel that this is our clinic and we will defend it and women’s right to access legal, safe health care.”
According to the consultation documents, the PSPO is proposed to address certain behaviors of members of pro-life and pro-choice groups. If approved, it will cover the area between Northfield Road, Beaumont Road, A4040 Watford Road and Selly Oak Road.
The document reads: “The activities complained of concern protesters expressing their disapproval of users, visitors and staff at the clinic by handing out leaflets, including leaflets with disturbing and graphic images, praying, singing, singing hymns, harassing and intimidating behavior, including blocking the road to the clinic, approaching those entering the clinic, blocking the sidewalk, making their views known to everyone in the proposed cordoned-off area, including children, depriving those who use the clinic, their ability to engage in confidentiality, free from intimidation or judgment.
“The protests have led to verbal and occasional physical confrontations between protesters and other members of the public, including local residents. Local residents have reported the impact of the protesters ‘activities and the protesters’ presence on their quality of life, including being unable to to enjoy their homes and gardens, to have to explain the protesters’ presence and purpose to their own young children, and their mental health is affected by the continued presence of the protest outside their homes, or while walking their daily walk Residents have felt sad the effect of the demonstrators’ presence on those who use the clinic. “
It goes on to say that a “significant amount of time is being spent by police officers and PCSOs on dealing with incidents related to Robert Clinic protesters and patrols in the area”. Staff and service users have complained about explicit signs, including one reading ‘do not baptize your baby’, where service users report feeling “emotional and scared” and crying.
An anonymous resident is registered to say: ” I could leave my curtains closed, not open my front door and not sit in my lounge – then I should not see them, but why should I do it to protect my mental health! My lounge is a nice, sunny getaway – and yet I can not sit in there for 80 days a year without feeling miserable and helpless. They are there every day – even on the weekends when the clinic is closed. “
A spokesman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which runs the clinic, said: “We support the introduction of the PSPO and hope it can be done as soon as possible. We have had several groups present for a long time outside this particular clinic and we certainly have limited confidence that this will stop unless the council intervenes.
“The demonstration is very outrageous for clients and for residents in the local area. It has been going on for so long now and it is time for the municipality to step in. This is not a silent guard, it is a tangible everyday threat to our service. users and it’s annoying for people to have to walk past.
“The mission statement from this group is to end abortion, and what we are clear on is that this is legal health care that women have a right to access. These protests pose a barrier to accessing that treatment and can deter people. “
BirminghamLive has contacted 40 Days For Life to comment on the proposed PSPO. The hearing runs from Monday, April 4, to May 23, 2022. Readers can view the hearing documents here.