I do not agree with that interpretation at all. We have public space protection orders around some abortion clinics now, and we are broadening that out. That has been voted for twice, in this House and in the other place. I believe very firmly that the changes proposed in amendment (a) would risk preventing people from getting the medical support they need. Let me explain why.
I am a person of faith. I have also walked into an abortion clinic. I pray, but I also know how intimidating it is to walk past people silently standing there with signs trying to communicate, trying to pray, trying to persuade women to change their mind. It is a balance that we strike in this place between a woman’s right to privacy and healthcare and everybody’s right to go about their business and do what they choose. This place has already struck that balance.
I will explain why I also believe the proposal would not work. It goes way beyond silent prayer. Amendment (a) states:
“No offence is committed under subsection (1) by a person engaged in consensual communication”.
What is “consensual communication”? How on earth can we define it? Members have said women should not be harassed. Everybody agrees with that, but one person’s consensual communication is another person’s harassment. We have taken some legal advice on the amendment. The Government, when considering whether to support it, should look at the wider implications it might have.