Our Lady of the Wayside

Our Lady of the Wayside
Protect Expectant Mothers and Their Babies

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Sunday, 22 April 2018

What to do about the Buffer Zone

In case you haven't seen the widespread media coverage, Ealing Council has set up a buffer zone outside the Marie Stopes abortion centre which will come into force on Monday 23rd April, the Feast of St George.
The scope of activity this buffer zone will ban is very broad, the PSPO (Public Space Protection Order) document itself says:

" The Activities prohibited by the Order are: 

i                      Protesting, namely engaging in any act of approval/disapproval or attempted act of approval/disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services, by any means. This includes but is not limited to  graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling, 
ii                    Interfering, or attempting to interfere, whether verbally or physically, with a service user or member of staff, 
iii                   Intimidating or harassing, or attempting to intimidate or harass, a service user or a member of staff, 
iv                   Recording or photographing a service user or member of staff of the Clinic whilst they are in the Safe Zone, 
v                    Displaying any text or images relating directly or indirectly to the termination of pregnancy, or 
vi                   Playing or using amplified music, voice or audio recordings.  "
Obviously some of these points will make no difference to us (specifically iii, iv and vi) as we never did these things anyway, but now anything we do to offer alternatives or help to women who choose to keep their babies is deemed to be "disapproving of abortion". Of course it is no secret that we don't agree with abortion, but the act of offering alternatives is not in itself an act of disapproval, but an act of offering help to those who wish to avoid an abortion.
Any attempt to offer women a leaflet has now become "Interfering with" service users.
And our poster offering practical help and support is now deemed to be "text relating to the termination of pregnancy".

Ealing Council will allow a maximum of 4 people to stand 100 metres away (some say 150 metres away) on a small green verge which feels to be so far away from the abortion centre that it would be miraculous if any Marie Stopes user noticed our existence. In that space we have limited rights to pray, offer leaflets and display a poster (poster sizes are limited). But if we step off the verge, we would be in breach of the PSPO.

No doubt there will be some local anti-vigil campaigners overcome with glee to see this come into effect.

Meanwhile we have been contacted by one or two people offering to break the PSPO.

We are asking people NOT TO break the PSPO. Here are the reasons why:

We can see that the PSPO is a complete misuse and abuse of laws intended to control anti-social behaviour, not intended to crush charitable outreach, prayer and public acts of witness. We want to see this fought in a legal and law abiding manner. This is about the right of those women who want our support to be able to access it at the point of need, not about any one of us becoming a hero, or being branded a criminal. We want to fight it in a way that demonstrates that. We are law-abiding citizens and we want to fight for our rights and the rights of Mothers who want our help, lawfully.

Furthermore there is no evidence of anyone breaking the law at Ealing or indeed at any of the vigils around the UK. We want to keep it this way. It speaks volumes about who we are and what we are doing that our movement is law-abiding.

The world recognises that movements sometimes need to break the law to protect civil liberties in the face of unjust law. No-one questions the fact that some of the great civil rights leaders of recent history broke laws to defend basic human rights. However, it is prudent and right to employ every legal course of action open to you. And we believe and expect that the legal means of fighting this buffer zone will be successful.

What can you do to help?

  • Firstly, prayer. There has been a continual stream of attacks on our Counsellors since the "anti-vigil" group started coming and spreading lies about what we do. But this has increased in intensity and frequency recently and our staff and volunteers have been the subject of vitriol and physical assault on a daily basis since the 10th April meeting when Ealing Council approved the buffer zone. They are on the frontline and we need to pray for them and of course even more so for the Mothers entering Marie Stopes. 
  • Secondly, instead of offers of breaking the PSPO we need people to commit to regular hours at the vigil. Do you think we should abandon these women? Even if we cannot be outside Marie Stopes, we intend to keep up the symbollic action of being present as closely as we can (legally in the designated area). If you agree that we shouldn't abandon them, please commit to offering some hours of prayer at our vigil. You need to be in contact with our centre to arrange this via info@goodcounselnetwork.co.uk - because we can only have a total number of 4 people on the designated area so please let us know if you plan to come - but please DO come.
  • When you come, please abide by the rules of the PSPO and comply with what the vigil leader asks you to do, and please DO NOT bring posters of any kind. We are only allowed posters of a certain size (and an overall size of all the posters in the designated area is also specified) and we already have them.
  • If you can't come, please offer some time in prayer and/or offer a fast or some sacrifice for the women entering Marie Stopes, for the vigil and for the end of abortion.
  • We provide tens of thousands of pounds worth of support every year to women in difficult pregnancies. Please consider making a donation to help towards this see www.GoodCounselNet.co.uk/Donate
  • Write to your MP about buffer zones - the next stage of this battle will be the Government trying to legislate nationally for buffer zones. We will be giving you more information about the points to make on this shortly.
  • Attend the March for life in London on Saturday 5th May in London. This is a great act of pro-life witness and a wonderful, uplifting event where we can all learn about the fight to defend the unborn and about the buffer zone and what needs to be done to overturn it. Details available at www.marchforlife.co.uk

We hope you will be patient over the next few days as we respond carefully to the Buffer Zone, but whatever you think, do not think that nothing is happening, or that we plan to sit back and accept what has been done to prevent women in need accessing alternatives to abortion.

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