The Government has rejected calls for buffer zones to be introduced outside abortion clinics across England and Wales.
Introducing protest-free areas outside clinics to prevent harassment of patients “would not be a proportionate response”, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said.
While a Home Office review found examples of harassment and damaging behaviour, such as the handing out of model foetuses, displaying graphic images and blocking patients’ paths, these activities were not the norm, he added.
He said: “Having considered the evidence of the review, I have therefore reached the conclusion that introducing national buffer zones would not be a proportionate response, considering the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics, and considering that the majority of activities are more passive in nature.”
The Home Secretary acknowledged all anti-abortion activities, passive or otherwise, can have an adverse effect and he expressed his sympathies to women impacted.
The review received more than 2,500 responses from abortion service providers, abortion service clients, anti-abortion demonstrators, police forces and local authorities.
Some 36 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales reported demonstrations outside their facilities. Of these, a small number reported aggressive activity, the Home Office said.
The main activities reported as having taken place during protests included praying, displaying banners and handing out leaflets.