Challenge to abortion censorship zone goes to the High Court

Legal proceedings have been launched in the High Court against Richmond Council to challenge a controversial Public Space Protection Order (“PSPO”) around an abortion centre that makes it a criminal offence to “[engage] in any act of approval or disapproval or attempted act of approval or disapproval” in regard to abortion.

In other words, it is illegal to be publicly prolife in the vicinity of the abortion centre on Rosslyn Road in

The legal challenge has been brought by Justyna Pasek, who has personally supported women visiting the abortion clinic in Richmond for over five years, offering them alternatives to abortion.

The broadly worded PSPO came into effect on 1 April 2019 and makes it a criminal offence to:

  • Have conversations about abortion or discuss alternatives to abortion.
  • Offer counselling
  • Pray
  • Offer leaflets that outline the practical help that women can access
  • Any “act of approval or disapproval”

These prohibitions on peaceful activities that in any other circumstance and regarding any other topic, were introduced by Richmond Council on the grounds that it is necessary to protect “the human rights of the patients and staff of the BPAS clinic to use the services and go to work without fear and in privacy.”

The PSPO was introduced in the absence of any evidence of harassment outside of the clinic with not a single person prosecuted. There are various legal options already available to prevent harassment, yet in the absence of any evidence of harassment, there has been no cause to apply such laws in this case.

The censorship zone came into force despite “major” concerns being raised by civil rights organisations, including Liberty, which submitted that the provisions of the PSPO are “too widely drawn and likely to inhibit lawful protest”.

The development in Richmond comes at the same time as a very similar legal challenge in Ealing, set to be heard by the Court of Appeal on 16 July.

The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, rejected nationwide “buffer zones” last September highlighting that “the majority of activities are more passive in nature” and made clear that there are a wide range of existing powers already available to local authorities and the police to deal with any problematic behaviour outside of abortion clinics.

Richmond Council have set aside £100,000 in anticipation of a legal challenge over this PSPO. A crowdfunding appeal to cover the costs of Justyna’s legal challenge raised over £10,000 in one week, and the crowdfunder for the case in Ealing has raised over £50,000.

Justyna Pasek, said:

“The women I helped often told me they could not get the help they need in the abortion clinic, only abortion. Outside the clinic, however, the kind of help that is offered can really transform the situations these women find themselves in.

“Because of the censorship zone in Richmond, I can no longer offer help where women need me the most. I cannot stand back and allow Richmond Council to introduce a draconian censorship zone that prevents real choice for women. I will challenge the PSPO in Richmond for mothers who need help in the future, at the place they need it most.”

Clare Mulvany, spokeswoman for the Be Here For Me campaign said:

“The women who received our help outside the abortion clinic are often of immigrant status, they are poor, they are pushed to the margins, and they feel they have no alternative, but abortion. The only effect this censorship zone has, is to take away all positive options available to these women.”

Please consider supporting Justyna’s campaign against these censorship zones, so that women can still be offered alternatives to abortion. So that women are given a real choice.