Pro-Life activists will soon be prevented from holding vigils and demonstrations outside the abortion centre in Reading following a vote from councillors.

At a full council meeting, councillor Karen Rowland (Labour, Abbey) submitted a motion calling for the council to support the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS)’s ‘Back Off’ campaign for legislation to establish a buffer zone around abortion clinics banning protests.

The motion also means the council will actively pursue a Public Space Protection Order to create a ‘designated protest zone’ and ‘protest exclusion zone’ if necessary to protect ‘access’ to abortion clinics.

During the debate, cllr Rowland mentioned the ’40 Days For Life’ campaign, which involves Christian pro-Life activists holding round the clock vigils and prayers outside abortion centres.

Local campaigners have been present outside the BPAS clinic in London Street, Reading, which they say presents a ‘last chance’ opportunity for women to realise that there is an alternative to abortion and not to go through with a procedure they would later regret.

The campaign takes place at points throughout the year, with the current 40 day period ending on Sunday, November 6.

READ MORE: Pro life campaigners engage in roadside protest in Reading

Reading also has an active branch of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), which has a vision of a world where abortion is unthinkable.

However, councillors heavily criticised pro-Life activity outside abortion centres in general.

Cllr Jan Gavin called the protests “aggressive” with cllr Liam Challenger (Labour, Katesgrove) calling campaigners “zealots.”

The motion received cross party support.

Cllr Rowland referred to her “incredulous alarm” that Roe vs Wade had been overturned which removed a woman’s nationwide right to an abortion in the USA.

Cllr Simon Robinson (Conservative, Emmer Green) called protests outside abortion centres in the USA “dreadful”.

He added: “There’s a time and a place to protest, but it is not outside such valued premises.”

For her part, cllr Louise Keane (Green, Katesgrove) said: “We all know abortion will always happen whether its legal or illegal, and the best thing we can do is to make sure its provided legally and as safely as possible.”

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Councillors voted unanimously to approve cllr Rowland’s motion to set up buffer zones in Reading.

The decision came after Parliament voted 297 to 110 to create a 500 feet buffer zone criminalise harrasing, obstructing or interefering with staff or clients at clinics on a national level.

Those in breach would receive a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

The vote meant MPs have added a new clause to the Public Order Bill.

Alithea Williams, public policy manager at SPUC said: “This is a black day for democracy and basic civil liberties.

“Ordinary, peaceful citizens now risk substantial jail time for the simple act of praying in public, and offering help to women in need.

“Parliament has literally just criminalised compassion.”

Meanwhile, Meri O’Connell, leader of the Liberal Democrat group and Tilehurst representative, said she was ‘cheered up to no end’ that buffer zones clause had been passed.

The Public Order Bill will have further readings before a final vote.