Anti-abortion campaigners have begun 40-day round-the-clock “vigils” outside a dozen UK clinics, despite increasingly restrictive Covid-19 rules.
According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), staff at facilities in London, Birmingham and Swindon already had been forced to call the police to report groups for breaking social distancing rules throughout the summer.
Campaigners associated with the US group 40 Days for Life also assembled outside nine other clinics on Wednesday – their second 40-day protest in 2020 after staging vigils over Lent.
On Tuesday – the second day of protests – police were called to BPAS clinics in Birmingham and Merseyside.
The service told HuffPost UK that a client’s partner became involved in a “heated debate” with campaigners on the way into a Birmingham clinic, while in Merseyside a protester breached a long-standing agreement that meant activists stood on the opposite side of the road. A protester stood directly at the gate of the clinic and refused to move, leaving the clinic staff with no option but to call the police.
“It does raise questions around if they’re so concerned with preserving life, why are they then taking part in a non-socially distanced activity at a time when we all shouldn’t necessarily be meeting up with strangers as much as possible?” said Dr Pam Lowe, a senior lecturer in sociology at Aston University and researcher on anti-abortion activism at clinics.
Rachael Clarke, public affairs and advocacy manager at BPAS, explained that during the summer clinics had been forced to call the police to move protesters away from the gates of facilities in south Birmingham and Swindon in order to ensure patients could remain socially distanced as they arrived for appointments.
She said staff were reluctant to call the police every time campaigners infringed the rules, but noted that some clinics had seen groups gathered outside that were not observing social distancing. Clarke added:...