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UK mother challenges London council's ban on prayer vigils outside abortion clinics

(Wikimedia Commons/Kim Traynor)Marie Stopes House in Whitfield Street, London.

A woman has expressed plans to file a lawsuit against Ealing Council after it enacted a "buffer zone" outside the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in the London borough, preventing pro-life advocates from organizing vigils near the facility.

The council had recently voted unanimously to enact an order that would prohibit pro-life protesters from standing within 100 meters (330 feet) of the clinic. The ban took effect on Monday at 9 a.m., according to Catholic Herald.

Those who are found to be in violation of the order "would be committing a criminal offence and can be fined or prosecuted," the council stated.

The activities that are prohibited within the buffer zone include acts of approval or disapproval of abortion, prayer or any kind of "interference" towards people heading to the clinic. A review of the order, which was introduced for three years, will be conducted after six months.

Alina Dugheriu, who had previously received help from vigil participants, has said that she will file her case after the Ealing Council confirms the implementation of the order.

"It seems clear to me that Ealing Council has had a predetermined outcome in mind since last summer and despite the facts, has insisted on making this draconian order," Dugheriu stated, according to Catholic Herald.

"Ealing Council could have taken action in a way that would have protected women and safeguarded the essential, life-saving help offered at the gate. Instead, they have criminalised charity and attempted to remove us from public space without justification," she continued.

Elizabeth Howard, who supports the vigils, expressed disappointment with the establishment of the buffer zone.

"I support these mothers 100 per cent. It is shocking that Ealing politicians and the activists who are pressuring them have totally ignored their viewpoints. I look forward to an independent judicial review of the situation," Howard said.

Earlier this month a group of mothers launched a campaign to oppose the creation of the buffer zone. The "Be Here For Me" was created by mothers who had received help from vigil members outside the abortion clinics. The women held a rally outside the Ealing Town Hall on April 10, on the day when the council decided whether to introduce the buffer zone.

A woman named Jaceline, who had received support outside an abortion clinic, contended that the buffer zones could force women "into going ahead with abortions they don't want."

Clare Carberry, a supporter of pro-life vigils, described the order as an "anti-choice" move that denies the offer of help to women in need. A petition against the buffer zone had garnered at least 5,960 signatures before the council voted on the order.

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