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Anti-abortion vigils “clearly aim to intimidate”, says Sheffield MP

Sheffield’s politicians speak out about 40 Days for Life anti-choice demonstrations, labelling them “abhorrent” and “deeply worrying”.

Placard reading Reproductive Justice
New Voices

As Now Then has reported, opposition to the recent 40 Days for Life anti-choice vigils in Sheffield has been swift and strong.

Whereas the vigils tend to have up to three people praying publicly, the spontaneous resistance among Sheffield people is made up of around 1,000 determined citizens, each opposed to the public promotion of a campaign to end bodily autonomy and reproductive rights.

Now Then also revealed this week that 40 Days for Life is promoting highly questionable medical “treatments” and offering incredibly insensitive advice.

Sheffield’s politicians have also spoken up about the presence of these protesters outside the Hallamshire Hospital.

In previous communications with Now Then, Councillor Ben Miskell, who has called for the use of Public Space Protection Orders to create protective 'buffer zones' around clinics, said that any attempt to intimidate women seeking an abortion is "completely unacceptable".:

“The Royal Hallamshire Hospital and Jessops provides vital healthcare services for women from right across South Yorkshire. We know from similar protests around the country, that anti-abortion groups using these tactics seek to intimidate women from accessing abortion services. That is totally unacceptable.”

Councillor Ben Miskell outside Hallamshire Hospital

Councillor Ben Miskell outside Hallamshire Hospital

Ben Miskell

He went on to say: “Women’s reproductive human rights need protecting and it is women themselves, not protestors, who should have the ultimate say on their own bodies.”

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, told Now Then: “I believe in a woman’s right to choose, and this must be protected - no one should face abuse or intimidation because of their choice.

“I appreciate that some people’s faith leads them to strong views against abortion and I respect their right to live their own lives by these views, but would urge them to respect the different choices others make.

“To organise these vigils outside hospitals and clinics clearly aims to intimidate women seeking abortions. It’s deeply unacceptable and I back moves to create buffer-zones to protect women from harassment.”

In heartening news, MPs voted on Tuesday in favour of buffer zones outside abortion clinics in England and Wales to limit how close protesters can get to healthcare settings.

Gill Furniss, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough and Shadow Minister for Roads, told Now Then that in her view, “it is a human right for women to have access to safe and legal abortions.”

“Many countries are starting to change their laws to improve access to safe and legal abortions. This American style of campaigning is abhorrent and seems to me to be completely out of step with public opinion and has no place in our country.”

Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam and Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Net Zero, told us she is “extremely concerned” about the vigils.

“Women must be able to access abortion services, without fear or intimidation. The fact that this is being threatened by USA-based abortion groups is unacceptable.”

Councillor Jayne Dunn, who used to represent Broomhill ward, where the Hallamshire hospital is located, and is campaigning to become Labour's candidate for Sheffield Central at the next election, said: “Worldwide 25 million unsafe abortions take place each year. Here in England women have these vital rights because we’ve fought for them over the years. It’s deeply worrying that people want to roll back the clock and remove our choice to have abortions.”

Louise Haigh MP, Clive Betts MP and Miriam Cates MP, along with several Sheffield councillors, did not respond to a request for comment.

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