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MS raises concerns about draft UK guidance on abortion clinic protests

a person holds up a my body, my choice sign
A pro-choice protestor holds up a sign ( (Photo by Envato Elements licence)

Draft UK guidance which allows protestors to approach women attending abortion clinics shows why policing and justice needs to be devolved to Wales, the Senedd heard.

Jenny Rathbone, a Labour backbencher, raised concerns about the UK Government issuing watered down draft guidance on safe zones around abortion clinics.

Ms Rathbone, who represents Cardiff Central, told MSs that most people in Wales support a woman’s right to choose to take on the difficult lifelong commitment of having a child.

“Women who attend these clinics are at their most vulnerable making that difficult decision,” she said during first minister’s questions on Tuesday January 23.

“And it is quite appalling that we are winding back the clock to enable people to be harassed at that most difficult moment.”

Last year, MPs backed proposals to enforce 150-metre buffer zones around abortion clinics to stop women being harassed as they enter.

Ms Rathbone said: “It is seriously disappointing that this draft guidance has already been given to police forces and local authorities despite this vote in the UK Parliament….

“How on earth can we trust the UK Government to obey the wishes of its own Parliament? Is this not a prime example of why policing and justice need to be devolved to Wales?”

Mark Drakeford told the Senedd that Home Secretary James Cleverly has said the guidance was drafted before he came into post following Suella Braverman’s sacking.

The first minister said Mr Cleverly has agreed to meet MPs to discuss their concerns ahead of publishing the final version of the guidance.

Prof Drakeford highlighted that Sir Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative MP, wrote to the home secretary saying the guidance discounts the experiences of women accessing services.

Sir Bernard, along with a Labour MP, raised concerns that women are being instructed not to feel harassed, alarmed or distressed by behaviour which has exactly that effect.

Prof Drakeford agreed with their assessment that the draft guidance would do nothing to address the ongoing issue of anti-abortion harassment outside clinics.

He said: ”If these decisions were in the hands of this Senedd, we would have acted differently and acted already to put an end to that harassment.

“It’s not too late for the UK Government to listen to Sir Bernard Jenkin and others – and I really hope that they do.”

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MS raises concerns about draft UK guidance on abortion clinic protests