Labour leader Ed Miliband could ban pro-life protests outside abortion clinics and counselling centres if his party wins the general election in a move that could have serious implications for the right to protest.
Miliband had the question about groups campaigning outside clinics sprung upon him during a television youth event, in which young voters had the opportunity to ask about policies relevant to them. The Guardian newspaper reports his answer: “[This] is a such a difficult decision for women. They need proper protection; that is non-negotiable. I don’t think women should be intimidated”.
Mr. Miliband said he’d have to consider the potential impact on the freedom of speech but said: “I think it is important that women feel protected”.
Labour parliamentary colleague to Miliband, and wife of would-be chancellor Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper said of banning protests: “In the US, Canada and France, a number of measures have been introduced to stop anti-abortion protests happening directly outside clinics and approaching either patients or staff.
“These include establishing buffer zones around the clinic – ‘floating buffer zones’ or ‘bubble zones’ which prevent protesters coming within a certain distance of staff or patients at clinics; restrictions on photography and recording, blocking entrances or exits, shouting or voice amplification, and disclosing of the identity of anyone entering, leaving, or approaching the clinic”.
The question of protests outside abortion clinics has become a hot topic in the United Kingdom as women and staff entering the premises have increasingly been subject to harassment by protesters, who use cameras and the internet to shame women.
Speaking at the event, Mliband also announced an expansion of the franchise to sixteen and seventeen year-olds, perhaps reflecting polling wisdom that shows first-time voters are more likely to support Labour, than later in life. Miliband said: “That is part of our commitment to hearing the voice of young people.
“I think we need to hear the voice of young people more in our democracy. It’s a sign of trust in young people. There are about 1.5 million young people that have lost Education and Maintenance Allowance, adding that if they had the vote George Osborne the chancellor would have consulted them”.