Abort67 protest against a clinic in Blackfriars. Yvette Cooper's proposal would create a "buffer zone" around clinics. Photo: Abort67/Telegraph
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Yvette Cooper proposes protest-free buffer zones outside abortion clinics

Following increased claims of intimidation and harassment outside clinics, Cooper has proposed the introduction of "buffer zones".

Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper has called on the government to introduce “buffer zones” around abortion clinics in response to reports that women are having difficulty accessing services due to harassment from protestors. She said:

Women should never be intimidated or threatened on their way to a healthcare appointment or on their way to work. No matter how strongly protesters feel about abortion themselves, they don't have the right to harass, intimidate or film women who need to make their own very personal decision with their doctors. Everyone has the right to access legal healthcare, medical advice and supprt and to have some privacy and space to do so – and that includes abortion services. 

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) has claimed that an increased number of protests outside clinics are intimidating women and interfering with their access to legally available medical treatment. Following the tactics of pro-life groups in the US, UK campaign groups like Abort67 and 40 Days for Life have taken to posting photographs they contend are of aborted foetuses outside clinics and filming women as they enter.

It's claimed that one clinic has been closed as the “direct result” of protest actions which included blocking the entrance to the building.

Staff have also been targeted, with one worker at a Blackfriars clinic requiring a police escort to get to her car after leaving work. Abortion Rights, the national campaign for a woman’s right to choose, have called for the government to intervene after police at the practice said they “do not feel existing legislation gives them the space” to adequately control the situation. They claim that “[a]nti-abortion extremists” have “flooded the area”, specifically targeting a mother and baby.

Speaking to the New Statesman, Abort67 founder Andy Stevenson says that MPs are"gullible" and "being hoodwinked" by Bpas. He claims that the allegations of harassment are "completely false" and calls buffer zones an unecessary attack on free speech, "based on lies".

Cooper explains that her proposal, which draws on legal remedies suggested by the US-based National Abortion Federation, would not prevent pro-life activists from protesting but would require them to stay a certain distance from patients:

Everyone should be allowed to hold legitimate protests. But they shouldn't be intimidatory ones right in front of the doors of clinics - we don't want US style abortion wars here. That's why we need a new system of buffer zones which can be introduced to move the location of protests or prevent filming of staff and patients if problems arise.

An Early Day Motion also advocating for the creation of buffer zones was introduced in parliament last year by Caroline Lucas, and has been signed by Cooper's fellow leadership contender, Jeremy Corbyn.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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