MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — Britain’s Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal against the creation of the country’s first “buffer zone” around an abortion clinic.
The 100-meter exclusion zone around a Marie Stopes clinic was approved by Ealing Council in April 2018 to prevent harassment of clients and staff. It prohibits all pro-life activity within the zone, including peaceful protests, the offer of counseling, and of prayer, even when it is silent.
The Public Spaces Protection Order was unsuccessfully challenged at the High Court the same year by Alina Dulgheriu, a Romanian former nanny who had decided not to go ahead with a planned abortion after she was helped by pro-life counselors. She is now the mother of a 7-year-old daughter.
In August 2019, Dulgheriu lost her case at the Court of Appeal, so she tried to take it to the Supreme Court, the highest in the country.
She announced March 12, however, that the Supreme Court has refused its permission for her to bring the case.
“I am devastated to hear that the Supreme Court has decided not to consider my appeal,” she said in a statement. “My little girl is here today because of the practical and emotional support that I was offered outside a Marie Stopes center, and I brought the appeal to ensure that other women did not have this vital support option removed,” she said.
“It is unthinkable that any council would criminalize an offer of help to a woman who might want to keep her child,” she said.
Dulgheriu said the voices of women who needed help and support during crisis pregnancies had been effectively silenced.
She was discussing her position with her legal team, she said, adding that she “will be considering all options, including an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg,” to which British courts remain subject under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Elizabeth Howard of Be Here For Me, a pro-life group supporting Dulgheriu, said the decision by the Supreme Court represented “a very sad day for vulnerable women.”
“In five years of the pro-life vigil’s work in Ealing, hundreds of women have accepted an offer of help and chose to keep their baby rather than have an abortion. These women have tried again and again to have their voices heard, but they are ignored,” she said in a March 12 statement.
“It is disgraceful that in both court judgments, there is literally not a single sentence, not a single word, dedicated to the women who have been helped by the vigil, who are grateful for the vigil, and who have given the other side of the story,” she said.
Abortion providers have asked the government to impose exclusion zones around all clinics, arguing that pro-life activity was a “national problem which required a national solution.”
The government has insisted, however, that such zones should be decided on a case-by-case basis, because a national policy would not be proportionate in the light of the “passive” nature of activities outside of abortion clinics, as well as the existing powers of local councils and the police.
In March 2019, Richmond Council in London became the second local authority to introduce an exclusion zone around and abortion clinic. Its policy is also facing a legal challenge from a pro-life activist, Justyna Pasek.