Aberdeen’s Lord Provost has come under fire for refusing to hear an emergency plea to protect women from “fear and intimidation”.
Opposition councillor Deena Tissera says the city must attempt to create buffer zones at the maternity hospital to keep anti-abortion protestors at bay.
With women’s rights coming under increasing threat globally, the newly-elected Labour member sought to raise an emergency motion at Wednesday’s Aberdeen City Council meeting.
Ms Tissera’s attempt to intervene came after Nicola Sturgeon backed the idea of 150m trial buffer zones in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
But her urgent motion, signed by 19 councillors, to discuss the prospect of a byelaw was blocked repeatedly by the authority’s SNP Lord Provost David Cameron.
What happened at council meeting?
Ms Tissera twice handed the motion to officers, who she says went to consult with Mr Cameron before returning to tell her it would not be heard.
The Lord Provost insists this was because it was handed in too late, arguing that he had refused other late motions and thought it was only fair to reject this one too.
Fears over lobbying outside Aberdeen hospital
But the health spokeswoman for the Labour group has been left “disappointed” by the move.
It comes amid fears the American Supreme Court overturning abortion rights could embolden certain campaigners.
She said: “It could now allow for extremists to lobby outside Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, resulting in women being harassed and intimidated.
“And this byelaw is required following an American anti-choice group holding a prayer vigil within the vicinity of the hospital.
“Unfortunately, the Lord Provost did not deem it an emergency.
“Maybe it is because he is a man that he does not understand how urgent it is that the council provides protection to women seeking advice regarding an abortion.”
Deena Tissera blames male-dominated council for blocking buffer zones debate
Ms Tissera added: “The first minister is encouraging local authorities to bring forward byelaws as a short-term measure to protect women.
“This matter should have been dealt with.
“However, when you have three male members leading the administration at Aberdeen City Council, important women’s issues are often forgotten about.”
The Hilton, Woodside and Stockethill councillor hopes her motion “will soon be heard and hopefully agreed by all councillors who value women and women’s rights”.
📍ABERDEEN MATERNITY HOSPITAL
We’re looking to speak to anyone – patients, staff, members of the public – who have come across anti-choice groups like the one below at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.
Please share. DMs are open. pic.twitter.com/dI2Kye37PQ
— Back Off Scotland (@backoffscotland) May 21, 2022
Deena Tissera’s motion on buffer zones
The motion asks councillors:
- To agree that the Supreme Court decision “is a step backwards for human rights”.
- Agree that “limiting access to abortions won’t reduce the number of abortions happening, it will just make abortions less safe”.
- To note that anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life held a “prayer vigil” at ARI this year.
- To liaise with the Scottish Government to “bring forward a byelaw to introduce buffer zones as a short-term measure” for any women using clinics that provide abortion services until the Scottish Government legislate on the matter.
- She asked for a report to be brought back to the next council meeting.
Lord Provost defends decision
Mr Cameron countered: “It was handed in literally minutes before the start of full council.
“I had refused to accept late notices from the Labour group earlier, and thought it was only proper to go by the same rules.
“It’s always debatable whether something is an emergency or not.”
Motion to be heard within fortnight
The Lord Provost added: “A special full council meeting will be set in the next 14 days to hear it.
“I’m trying to find a date to get as many people there as possible.
“I find it quite unacceptable to suggest that I don’t care about women.”
And the deputy leader of the SNP group, Miranda Radley, insists she and her colleagues are committed to pushing for buffer zones.
Do you believe buffer zones should be created in Aberdeen? Let us know why in our comments section below!
She said: “This was a pledge from the SNP manifesto and we’ve already had extensive discussions on this matter.
“Unfortunately, councils do not currently have the power to implement buffer zones.
“I hope that the situation will change shortly.
“We will happily work with anyone and everyone to make that happen.”