Dutch city of Eindhoven introduces buffer zone around abortion clinic


Western Europe


Demonstration at the abortion clinic in the Dutch city of Zwolle. Photo RD, Henk Visscher

Since last week, demonstrating against abortion at the abortion clinic in the Dutch city of Eindhoven has only been permitted from a demonstration area across the road. Mayor John Jorritsma decided this, Dutch media report.

The immediate reason for the decision is thousands of e-mails that the mayor received because of a campaign by the Dutch humanist association "Humanistisch Verbond" (HV). Mayors of Dutch cities received more than 5300 e-mails last week, calling on them to create buffer zones near abortion clinics to protect visitors from 'intimidation' from pro-life demonstrators.

On the website of the HV, an e-mail is ready, in which people can fill in their first and last name, e-mail address and telephone number. They can send the mail to nine mayors of cities with abortion clinics where, according to the HV, there are currently few or no rules for anti-abortion demonstrators. These include the Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema and Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb.

The HV, which speaks of "intimidation" around abortion clinics, calls the action a last resort. In a buffer zone, demonstrations are not allowed. Visitors of abortion clinics can then enter unhindered. Some municipalities already have one. Anti-abortion activists must keep a distance ranging from 100 to 500 metres. According to the association, outgoing Health Minister Hugo de Jonge also expressed his support for buffer zones.


In a reaction, mayor Femke Halsema of Amsterdam has announced that her city already has a buffer zone between demonstrators and visitors of an abortion clinic.

In Amsterdam, there is a demonstration every month at the abortion clinic. The law states that demonstrators are allowed to demonstrate at a distance of sight and hearing from their intended target. It has been agreed with the demonstrators that they may stand on the other side of the street. In that sense, there is already a buffer zone, says Halsema.

The HV finds the buffer zone in Amsterdam too limited. "Visitors to the clinic in Amsterdam cannot bypass the protesters in any way. In some municipalities, such as Utrecht, anti-abortion activists must keep a distance of 100 metres. In Arnhem this is even 500 metres. Why do other mayors not succeed in doing this?" says a spokesman.

Following Amsterdam, Rotterdam also said it separates demonstrators and visitors of an abortion clinic for some time.

"Rotterdam has had a buffer zone in place since 2016," a spokeswoman for Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb informed. "Protesters are not allowed to demonstrate directly in front of the entrance to the building that houses the abortion clinic. They must take their seats on the opposite side on the red square in front of the building."

Northern Ireland

Demonstrations around abortion clinics are sensitive in more countries. In Germany, there is a court case about such a case. In Northern Ireland, a pro-life group accused human rights commissioner Alyson Kilpatrick last week of using "weasel words" in support of an abortion buffer zone bill, Catholic News Agency reports. Precious Life called for the chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to resign after her comments to the health committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Kilpatrick told the committee on 7 December that the commission supported the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, which would make it a criminal offence for pro-lifers to engage in "influencing" women inside "safe access zones" around premises offering abortions. She argued that the private members' bill "doesn't prevent anyone from protesting about anything, and it certainly doesn't prevent anyone from protesting or complaining about their opposition to abortion," according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Precious Life, a pro-life group, founded in Northern Ireland in 1997, said that the bill would infringe free assembly and expression rights. "Only pro-life people outside an abortion centre will be targeted as criminals and fined up to £2,500 [around $3,300]. But Alyson Kilpatrick claims this is an 'appropriate balance.'"

Following its committee stage, the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill must pass several more steps before becoming law.



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.