A pregnant woman was left in tears after being “intimidated” by “pro-life” protesters outside a Birmingham abortion clinic. Plans to ban protests outside the Robert Clinic in Kings Norton are currently out for consultation after years of complaints.
Neighbors have reported issues with anti-abortion campaigners handing out graphic leaflets, chanting, praying and blocking access to women using the Station Road facility. Birmingham City Council is proposing a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in the vicinity, where, according to consultation documents, members of the 40 Days For Life group have been pitching up twice-a-year for 40 consecutive days, as well as on a twice-weekly basis throughout the year.
One service user shared her 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 protesters outside Birmingham abortion clinic
“I cried in the car,” she said. “It was already a horrible day and the thought of being harassed from my decision, which had been difficult one to make, was too much for me.
“I felt threatened and intimidated as I didn’t know what these men were going to do. I felt lucky to have my partner with me who helped me to calm down and walked up to the clinic door with me to shield me from the men .
“Whilst in the waiting room another woman who had been given a leaflet was crying on her own. It clearly distressed a lot of woman.”
The protests have reportedly led to verbal and, on occasion, physical confrontations, with West Midlands Police recording an increase in anti-social behavior in the area. The group previously gathered outside the Calthorpe Clinic in Edgbaston for nine years before it closed.
More than 60 neighbors have formed a campaign group, Reclaiming our Road, in support of the PSPO. Resident Liz Bates said: “This particular group are mainly quiet but they set up chairs, kneel in the street, sprinkle what we think is holy water and chant 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 for women accessing the clinic. I’m just a resident but I am passionate about healthcare access and not having barriers to that.
“My personal views are pro-choice but in our group we’ve a range of views. We’re in a unique position because we have an abortion clinic on one end of the road and a Catholic church at the other – but everyone in our group is united in our abhorrence of the fact people are pushing their views on women in these circumstances.
“These protesters are not from this area and we feel strongly that this is our clinic and we will defend it and women’s right to access legal, safe healthcare.”
According to the consultation documents, the PSPO is proposed to address certain behavior from members of pro-life and pro-choice groups. If implemented, it would cover the area between Northfield Road, Beaumont Road, the A4040 Watford Road and Selly Oak Road.
A spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which runs the Robert Clinic, said: “We are in support of the introduction of the PSPO and hope it can be done as soon as possible. We have had multiple groups present for a long time outside of this particular clinic and we certainly have limited confidence that this is going to stop unless the council takes action.
“The protesting is very upsetting for clients and for residents in the local area. It’s been going on for so long now and it’s time for the council to step in. This is not a silent vigil, this is a tangible everyday threat to our service users and it’s upsetting 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 healthcare that women are entitled to access. These protests form a barrier to accessing that care and can put people off.”
BirminghamLive contacted 40 Days For Life for comment on the proposed PSPO. The consultation runs from Monday, April 4 to May 23, 2022. Readers can view the consultation documents here.