Abortion rights battles are spreading to the UK, says leading academic

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Recent British court ruling opens the way to prosecute abortionists for murder

Following reports from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) that the number of protests outside clinics is on the rise, and as medical and rights groups call for buffer zones to be set up around abortion clinics to prevent women being harassed by anti-abortion activists, a leading expert on protest says that the UK is seeing the formation of an ‘abortion’ battleground similar to that in the US.

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Dr Graeme Hayes of Aston University, an expert on social movements, activism and protest, comments:

“What’s interesting about this debate is that it is starting to resemble the battle over abortion rights in the United States.

“The debate is increasingly becoming one of competing rights, with each group pitting their rights against the other. On the one hand, we have the right to free speech, but on the other we have the rights of women to control their own bodies.

“Of course, it can be argued that those who defend reproductive rights are seeking to restrict the right to freedom of speech, and vice versa.”

But Dr Hayes argues that there is a disturbing new trend in anti-abortion activism: identifying the women attending the clinics, filming them and even taking their names.

Dr Hayes adds:

“This is, of course, what the police routinely do to members of the public engaging in lawful protest, but they have faced heavy criticism for invasions of privacy. It is difficult to defend the actions of groups such as Abort67, who have been targeting clinics in Southwark, London, when they intrude on women’s rights not just to control their own bodies, but to their own privacy.

“This all adds to the gathering storm over protest and free speech in the UK. Do we have the right to be free of speech that offends us? And what action can we and should we take when the right to free speech is used to harass members of the public?”

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