Bishop John Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster diocese, has spoken in defence of pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics, as a campaign to ban them gathers momentum.

Bishop Sherrington said in a statement that pro-life vigils were motivated by a “fundamental belief in the protection of unborn life and the good of the mother”, and that they offered “practical alternatives and assistance if a woman wants to make a different choice”.

Several local councils have passed motions to introduce “buffer zones” outside abortion clinics, although they have not yet decided how to implement them. The Government has just concluded a consultation on “alleged harassment and intimidating behaviour” outside clinics.

The organisers of pro-life prayer vigils say that the evidence is lacking. Clare McCullough of Good Counsel Network said that the vigils at the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing, where the local council wants to impose a ban, had produced “not a scrap of evidence of any such behaviour”, despite “18 months of constant filming and recording by the ‘counter-protest’ group”.

The vigils help women in vulnerable situations, Mrs McCullough said. “Rare is the woman who enters the abortion centre without feeling internally knocked out of kilter, to say the least, but add to that the mixture of abused, trafficked, abandoned young women who wash up on the shore of Marie Stopes or BPAS each day and we are often seeing women who are shell-shocked or verging on a breakdown,” she added.

“Sometimes a woman seeks us out because she is desperate or afraid. But more often as one of us approaches her to offer a leaflet she may initially look uninterested, but then suddenly realise that we are claiming to offer an alternative.”

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