Scottish Greens launch bill to create protest-free zones outside abortion clinics | Scotland
A Scottish Greens MSP has launched a bill in Holyrood to designate protest-free buffer zones outside abortion clinics as healthcare professionals and campaigners call for immediate action in the face of rising anti-abortion activity.
Launching the public consultation which kicks off the Bill’s process, Gillian Mackay MSP said on Thursday that while urgency was at the heart of the Bill, it was also essential that any proposal be sound, after a Bill similar for Northern Ireland was returned to the UK. Supreme Court earlier this month.
Clare Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, hailed Mackay’s plans as a “simple solution to a growing problem”. Back Off Scotland, a student-led campaign that has spearheaded the promotion of these areas, said it hoped the roundtable summit promised by Nicola Sturgeon last week would yield interim measures in the short term. term.
“With this growing activity, we need to move quickly,” said Dr Audrey Brown, sexual and reproductive health consultant and chair of the Scottish Abortion Care Providers Group, noting “a marked escalation” in recent months. “It’s not a party politics issue, it’s a health issue.”
Last week, Brown was working at the Sandyford Clinic near Glasgow city centre, which provides sexual health services to rape and other victims, when she was targeted by a small group of unaffiliated protesters visible to a group.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” she said. “They had a microphone with an amplifier and were extremely verbally abusive to staff and patients.” She remembers a protester shouting in her face: “You will be at the gates of hell with all the fetuses you have murdered lying in front of you.”
At Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which has been the focus of prayer vigils by the Texas group 40 Days for Life since 2016, consultant pediatric radiologist Dr Greg Irwin said: ‘I am puzzled by the why the Scottish Government doesn’t act on this faster, when it has cross-party and public support.
Irwin, who last month penned a letter signed by 76 QEUH colleagues asking Women’s Health Minister Maree Todd to ‘show courage’ on buffer zones, spoke outside the maternity ward and faced to a group of 40 Days for Life supporters, gathered for their weekly prayer vigil on Tuesday.
He said they were strategically placed at the point in the road where cars need to slow down on their way to the main hospital grounds. “They can see straight into vehicles, and if patients come by public transport, they have to walk past them from the bus stop. They intimidate people.
“The main feeling I have, and which I share with my colleagues, is anger at what they are doing to our patients. I want women to know that this hospital is full of professionals of all ranks who will care for them and support them. Whatever decision they make, we are on their side,” he said.
The eight-person group held signs reading “women regret abortion” and “pray to end abortion”, along with pictures of fetuses in the womb, and prayed and sang together. Approached by the Guardian, they refused to answer questions about their presence, saying “we are here to pray”.
Robert Colquhoun, the group’s international campaigns director, said there was no significant increase in activity in Scotland, but a recent increase in media visibility had drawn public attention to the regular vigils.
Last week a campaign called Compassion Scotland was launched to oppose what it describes as ‘censorship zones’. Spokeswoman Hannah McNicol said the group was independent, with no affiliation or funding from any other religious or political organization.
McNicol said the “peaceful gatherings” taking place across Scotland did not constitute harassment and that it would be a “gross breach of basic human rights” to prevent them.
“Women seek abortions for many reasons and can often be under immense pressure to do so – whether it’s financial and professional pressures or coercion from a partner or family member. The peaceful presence of volunteers reporting practical support and advice has been a lifeline in the past for women who feel they have no choice but to abort.
But Alice Murray, who met 40 Days For Life outside Chalmers Street Clinic in Edinburgh when she went for an abortion in October 2019, described a very different experience. “They were handing out leaflets and standing in silent prayer, but it was still intimidating to have loads of strangers staring at you. You feel very targeted, even if they aren’t yelling at you.
Murray, who later co-founded Back Off Scotland, added: “When I walked in the staff were really helpful. It wasn’t just about medical information, but asking if it was okay with you, if anyone had pressured you, all the things that people on the outside think you’re not being told. But when I was in there, I thought I should pass them again.