A pregnant woman was left in tears after being “trimmed” by “pro-life” protesters outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham. Plans to ban protests outside the Robert Clinic in Kings Norton are currently out for consultation after years of complaints.
Neighbors have reported problems with anti-abortion advocates handing out graphic leaflets, singing, praying and blocking access to women using the Station Road facility. The Birmingham City Council is proposing a Public Space Protection Ordinance (PSPO) in the vicinity, where members of the 40 Days For Life group, according to consultation documents, have pitched twice a year for 40 days in a row, as well as twice a week during of the year.
A service user shared his experience as part of the consultation after coming face to face with protesters outside the clinic. The anonymous woman described “crying in the car” after being “harassed” by the men.
READ MORE: Calls to end years of anti-abortion protests outside the abortion clinic in Birmingham
“I was crying in the car,” she said. “It was already a terrible day, and the thought of being harassed from my decision, which had been hard to make, was too much for me.
“I felt threatened and intimidated as I did not know what these men were going to do. I felt lucky to have my partner with me who helped me calm down and went up to the clinic door with me to shield me from the men. .
“While another woman in the waiting room, who had been given a leaflet, cried on her own. It clearly worried many women.”
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. The group previously gathered outside the Calthorpe Clinic in Edgbaston for nine years before closing.
More than 60 neighbors have formed a campaign group, Reclaiming our Road, in support of the PSPO. Resident Liz Bates said: “This particular group is mostly quiet, but they line up chairs, kneel on the street, sprinkle what we think is holy water, and sing and pray on the street. People who live opposite can hear this from inside their houses.
“They are persistent and intrusive, and they are harassing and intimidating to women who have access to the clinic. I am only a resident, but I am passionate about access to 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 unique position because we have an abortion clinic at one end of the road and a Catholic church at the other – but everyone in our group is united in our disgust that people are pushing their views on women in these circumstances.
“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 implemented, it will cover the area between Northfield Road, Beaumont Road, A4040 Watford Road and Selly Oak Road.
A spokesman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which runs the Robert 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 without for 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 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.