A local town hall made history tonight by banning pro-life protesters from gathering outside an abortion clinic.
Ealing Council’s cabinet voted unanimously for a ‘Public Spaces Protection Order’, creating a safe buffer zone outside a Marie Stopes centre.
A row has raged in the west London borough over protesters who are accused of waving placards of aborted foetuses, filming women and shouting “murderers”.
The Ealing saga sparked calls by more than 100 MPs including Jeremy Corbyn for tighter laws to stop protesters subjecting women to “daily abuse”.
The MPs said: “The women accessing clinics are not seeking debate – they are trying to make their own personal decision about their own pregnancy.”
Pro-choice protesters in pink high-vis vests outside tonight’s meeting chanted “What do we want? Safe zone. When do we want it? Now” and “Get your rosaries off our ovaries”.
Cars hooted and passers-by shouted out “Well done ladies” in support of those campaigning for the safe zone.
A counter-group of anti-abortion campaigners, which included several children, quietly stood and sang hymns including Amazing Grace.
Some of their signs read: “Don’t criminalise help” and “No censorship zones”.
Alina Dulgheriu became accidentally pregnant when she was working as a live-in babysitter – “definitely not the time to have a baby”.
She said a woman handed her a leaflet offering help as she walked into the Marie Stopes clinic, so she “went with her and got all the help I need and thanks to them I have my child”.
The 34-year-old said she was offered financial, practical and moral help, as well as accommodation.
Speaking of her daughter, six, she said: “She’s my pride, she’s my strength, without her I would not be the person I am today.”
Asked about what the situation would be if the zone is voted through, she said: “Imagine in two weeks’ time, three weeks’ time, what will happen… where will they (the women) go for help?”
John Hansen Brevetti, clinical operations manager at the clinic on Mattock Lane, said he was feeling “confident” and “optimistic” that councillors would vote through the buffer zone.
Speaking immediately before the meeting he said: “There’s a lot that’s gone into tonight so we’re all on the edges of our seat waiting for the decision.”
He said women had been told the ghost of their foetus would haunt them, had been told “mummy mummy don’t kill me”, had holy water thrown on them and rosary beads thrust at them.
The cabinet meeting started just after 7pm with a packed room of supporters from both sides in attendance.
A representative for Be Here For Me, Ms Dulgheriu, said implementing the safe zone would “remove life-saving help when it’s most needed”.
She said the argument against having groups outside the clinic was that, by that point, women have already made their decision, adding “but we make our choices because of the support we do or do not have”.
“I was given a real choice by the woman at the gate,” she added.
Anna Veglio-White, a co-founder of SisterSupporter, thanked the residents of Ealing for being so engaged in the consultation.
Wearing a pink high-vis vest, pink socks and pink shoes, she called the borough “inspiring”, adding: “I think the world is watching.”
As she spoke, council leader Julian Bell was forced to ask members of the public to stop heckling, with shouts of “rubbish” called out by one man.
Richard Bentley, Marie Stopes UK managing director, said after tonight’s decision: “This is a landmark decision for women.
“We are incredibly grateful to Ealing Council for recognising the emotional distress that these groups create, and for taking proportionate action to protect the privacy and dignity of women accessing our clinic in the borough.
“This was never about protest. It was about small groups of strangers choosing to gather by our entrance gates where they could harass and intimidate women and try to prevent them from accessing healthcare to which they are legally entitled.
“Ealing Council has sent a clear message that this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated, and that these groups have no justification for trying to involve themselves in one of the most personal decisions a woman can make.
“We know other councils have been watching this process and some are exploring similar measures to increase protection outside clinics in their areas.
“Ultimately, we believe every woman in the UK should be able to access abortion services without harassment and we hope this decision marks the beginning of the end of the harassment these groups undertake nationwide.”
Katherine O’Brien, a spokesperson for bpas, said: “We welcome tonight’s decision, and thank Ealing Council for unanimously voting in favour of implementing a buffer zone around their local clinic.
“The evidence submitted to the Council was clear: these protesters have had a hugely detrimental impact on women accessing the clinic, the staff providing their care, and local residents. The Council was also clear that a buffer zone was their only option, as protesters have made it clear that they have no intention of amending their behaviour to prevent women being distressed.