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UK Christian preacher convicted over abortion clinic protest – Times of India

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LONDON: Campaigners on Friday called for more consistent protection for women facing harassment while trying access abortion services in the UK after a Christian preacher was convicted over a protest outside a clinic.
Stephen Green, 72, who says his prosecution was an “attack on the Bible and free speech”, held up a placard with a religious text during his protest in west London last February.
The protest took place in a so-called buffer zone around the clinic put in place by the local Ealing council, the first in the UK surrounding such a facility.
Buffer zones around abortion clinics were brought in across the UK in January 2023, after complaints from women of intimidation and harassment from anti-abortion groups and protesters.
Green’s sign, quoting Psalm 139, read: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.”
A judge in Uxbridge, northwest London, on Thursday said he had “pointedly and intentionally” included the words “in my mother’s womb” as “an act of protest”.
The words amounted to an “expression of disapproval” of abortion and therefore were in breach of a public spaces protection order used to set up the buffer zone, district judge Kathryn Verghis said.
Louise McCudden, UK head of external affairs at the charity MSI Reproductive Choices, welcomed Green’s conviction but called on the government to end the geographical game of chance surrounding safe access to clinics.
She said women should be able to find “abortion care safe from harassment” no matter where they lived.
Campaigners have been calling for national legislation on the issue, arguing that the current reliance on public space protection orders, which can be imposed in England and Wales under 2014 anti-social behaviour legislation, depends on the willingness of individual local authorities to act.
Green, from South Wales, pleaded not guilty to breaching the order and was ordered to pay £2,426 ($2,640) in court costs and surcharge.
He was given a conditional discharge, meaning he will not be sentenced for the breach unless he reoffends.
His lawyer said he intended to appeal the conviction and would not pay the costs on principle.
“If the machinery of the state or local government is trying to say there are places where the word of God may not be expressed, I have to challenge that,” Green told the court at an earlier hearing in January.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is backing him, condemned the judge’s comments.
“Hearing a judge say that verses from Psalm 139 are an ‘act of protest’ and to be punished is devastating.
“We will stand with Mr Green as he seeks justice in this case,” she said.

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