Protesters outside an abortion clinic are not deterring women from using the service but forcing them to put off treatment until later, according to new claims.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas), a charity which offers advice to pregnant women, claims that two years of protests carried outside their Wistons Clinic in Dyke Road, Brighton, has not caused their client numbers to drop but has put women off coming to the clinic until later into their term.

Figures released by Bpas show that the number of clients using the clinic has increased by 5% between 2009 and 2011.

However, the number of clients getting an abortion between 10 and 12 weeks increased by nearly 30% between 2009 and 2011 while women seeking an abortion past 13 weeks has increased by a third.

A Bpas spokeswoman said women seeking treatment after nine weeks are unable to access an early medical abortion, which many women prefer as it can be performed without anaesthetic.

Abortions carried out later in gestation are a more complex procedure.

Earlier this week Abort67 campaigner Andrew Stephenson was cleared of public order offences for unveiling a graphic poster close to the clinic last year.

The case seems unlikely to stop campaigners from both sides of the issue from continuing to protest over the issue with Mr Stephenson vowing to return in the next few weeks.

Brighton Pro-Choice is continuing to hold weekly meetings in the city discussing tactics to oppose Abort67 and released a statement earlier this week saying this week’s verdict changed nothing.

'Causing distress'

Clare Murphy, Bpas spokeswoman, said: “We are very supportive of people’s right to freedom of speech.

“However, what takes place on a regular basis outside our clinic is not about debate or changing public opinion, it is simply about causing distress to individual women on what may already be a difficult day.

“We know there are some women who simply feel unable to make their way past the line of protesters on the days they are there.

“These women do not decide against abortion, they simply come back at a later date for treatment at a later gestation.”

Mr Stephenson said: “We are outside the clinic just two mornings of the week.

“Is Bpas suggesting women are too unintelligent to come back another day or go to another clinic?

“No woman can give informed consent until she has seen what abortion looks like.

“Bpas are trying to make us go away and their desperate attempts to shame us by falsely reporting about who we are and what they do is a sign we are winning.”