Liverpool Council is recommended to adopt a new public space protection order (PSPO) around the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS) Merseyside clinic in Aigburth following a consultation on anti-social behaviour outside the centre.
Since early 2020, the local authority, in conjunction with colleagues from Merseyside Police have been investigating concerns raised about behaviours associated with individuals and represented groups involved in protests and vigils outside the clinic in South Liverpool.
Liverpool Council has received what it described as “numerous reports” from residents, individuals, organisations and elected members about anti-social behaviour from those “expressing disapproval of people accessing abortion services.”
As a result, it is seeking to adopt a PSPO preventing any protests outside the clinic. The proposals are to be discussed in a meeting of the council’s highways and public spaces representations committee next week.
Why is the ban being considered?
According to the reports, protestors have harassed patients for “several years” by branding them murderers, handing out plastic foetuses and impeding those attempting to enter the clinic and surrounding cars.
The report said: “This has caused those trying to access lawful healthcare at the clinic to say they feel intimidated, scared, distressed, anxious, judged, uncomfortable, angry, guilty and in one reported incident so affected by the actions of the protestors physically sick.”
A witness statement from Merseyside Police Sergeant Maggie Howard said the PSPO would create a “buffer zone” around Parkfield Road with a restricted area beginning at the junction of Ullet Road, ending at the junction of Aigburth Road.
Sgt Howard also detailed 17 occasions between September 2020 and October last year when protestors had gathered outside the clinic, including on October 16, 2021, when one shouted at a patient “don’t kill god’s child murderer, we will pray for you”. One of the individuals targeted by protestors was 17 years old, according to documents alongside the report, and said it left her “upset and ashamed”.
She added: “I was 17 and although I appreciate these people were sharing their beliefs, this stayed with me.” Ward councillors Tom Crone, Stephanie Pitchers and Anna Key have all endorsed the making of the order, as well as Cllr Abdul Qadir, cabinet member for neighbourhoods.
Emily Spurrell, Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, has also backed the proposals. A total of 11 written representations were made against the plan.
Merseyside Police have supported the PSPO application, deeming it to be “proportionate, reasonable and justifiable according to the circumstances.”
Should the committee, comprised of Cllrs Dan Barrington, Sarah Doyle and Pam Thomas, agree with the recommendations, the PSPO would then be adopted.