Agenda item

Petition - Stop women being harassed and intimidated outside the Ophir Road abortion clinic

Council is advised that a petition with 2,788 valid signatures has been received from Sister Supporter Bournemouth requesting that:


“We the undersigned petition the council to take all measures within its power, including but not limited to the establishment of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), to move anti-abortion groups away from the area immediately outside the BPAS abortion clinic on Ophir Road, Charminster (to a distance of at least 150m). This will allow women and pregnant people to access its services free from interference and intimidation and to prevent the detrimental impact this activity is having on local residents.”


In accordance with the Constitution a petition with 2,000 + signatures will be referred for debate at a meeting of full Council. The Council is asked to consider the petition and to determine next steps.


Notice of Motion in accordance with Procedure Rule 9 in relation to this matter

The following motion submitted in accordance with Procedure Rule 9 of the Meeting Procedure Rules has been proposed by Councillor Millie Earl and seconded by Councillor Lisa Lewis.

The Council notes:

2,788 people who live, work or study within the BCP area have signed the Sister Supporter petition calling on BCP Council to take measures to stop harassment and intimidation of women as they access services at the BPAS Bournemouth Abortion Clinic.

This motion is explicitly not one for or against abortion, which is available in Great Britain in the circumstances laid out in the Abortion Act 1967. It is a motion that seeks to protect the rights of individuals from harassment and intimidation when accessing legally existing health services and of local residents not to be exposed to related disruption and distress.

Many protesters use deliberately disturbing and graphic images, distribute leaflets containing misleading information about abortion, hang baby clothes on the bushes and hold ‘vigils’ which staff and visitors are subjected to as they enter or leave the clinic. Significant numbers of women report feeling intimidated and distressed by this activity as they try to access a lawful healthcare service in confidence.

The right to protest needs to be balanced with the right of women and pregnant people to choose and to obtain advice and treatment in confidence and free from intimidation. Those who wish to campaign to restrict women’s reproductive choices have plenty of opportunities and locations in which to do so. The area outside a clinic need not and should not be one of them.

Equally, local residents who live on Ophir Road and surrounding streets should not have to be exposed to constant nuisance, disruption and anxiety caused by such protests on a daily basis. Further, staff at BPAS Bournemouth Clinic should be protected from bullying and intimidation at their place of work.

In April 2018, Ealing Council became the first in the UK to use a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to protect women from “intimidation, harassment and distress” outside the Marie Stopes clinic. Since then, two other councils, Richmond and Manchester, have successfully introduced ‘buffer zones’ using PSPO legislation and Birmingham City Council has recently finished consulting on the use of a PSPO to do the same.

Council resolves to:

(a)     Take all measures within its power, including consulting on a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), to move anti-abortion groups away from the area outside the BPAS abortion clinic on Ophir Road, Charminster to a distance which prevents intimidation and harassment of people visiting the clinic;

(b)     These measures should:

(i)      allow women and pregnant people to access services at the BPAS abortion clinic free from interference and intimidation;

(ii)     protect staff and visitors from harassment and intimidation;

(iii)    prevent the detrimental impact that anti-abortion groups have on the residents of Ophir Road and the surrounding area.


The Chairman set out the process for dealing with the petition as set out in the Constitution.

Jess Bone the petition organiser from Sister Supporter provided council with background relating to the submitted petition and reported that the petition was being presented on behalf of 3395 signatories.

The Chairman asked Members to raise any questions of clarification.

Councillor Bobbie Dove, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Regulatory Services addressed the Cabinet advising that following concerns raised a Portfolio Holder decision had recently been made to go out to public consultation on a proposed PSPO which would provide a buffer zone, and that this will be subject to a 6-week consultation which will commence on 20 July 2022.

In relation to this Councillor Millie Earl addressed council advising that whilst a motion had originally been tabled that as the proposed PSPO was going out to consultation that she wished to withdraw the motion and looked forward to the official consultation.

Council agreed to the withdrawal of the motion.

Councillor Bobbie Dove proposed the following recommendation which was seconded by Councillor Nicola Greene.

RESOLVED that Council thank Councillor Earl for bringing forward the motion and that the Portfolio Holder decision be endorsed.

Voting For – 62, Against – 0, Abstentions - 1