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Sturgeon: Anti-abortion protests should be outside Parliament, not hospitals

Nicola Sturgeon said the place for such protest should be outside the Parliament (PA)
Nicola Sturgeon said the place for such protest should be outside the Parliament (PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has called for anti-abortion activists to protest outside the Scottish Parliament rather than intimidating people at hospitals.

There have been mounting calls for buffer zones to be introduced around abortion clinics to protect women from being targeted.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service wrote to women’s health minister Maree Todd last week to express concern over protesters being able to “pressure” service users outside hospitals.

The buffer zones would ban certain activities designed to deter or prevent women from accessing abortion care within 150 metres of the entrance to a clinic or hospital.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon asked the First Minister in Parliament if she has any regrets about not implementing buffer zones.

Ms Sturgeon said she recognises people have a right to protest – but told them to do it “where the laws are made” rather than confront women who are often in “extreme distress”.

She replied: “First, can I say, on behalf of the Scottish Government but also as First Minister personally, that we are committed to ensuring that all women are able to access timely abortions without judgment.

“I condemn, and I will do so in the strongest possible terms, any attempts to intimidate women as they choose to access abortion services.

“People, of course, have a right to protest against abortion, but they should do that outside Parliament, where the laws are made. They should not do that outside a hospital, where women are undergoing abortions, and of course, experiencing often, as they do so, extreme distress.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said anti-abortion protests should take place outside Parliament, not at hospitals (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The buffer zones working group has been meeting and is looking at ways to prevent any patients feeling harassed or intimidated when accessing healthcare.”

Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay has called for the zones to be introduced around clinics, highlighting a risk that leaving action to local authorities will create a “postcode lottery, whereby some women are able to access abortion services without fear of harassment, but others are not”.

SNP MSP John Mason came under fire after admitting last year that he had attended a controversial abortion “vigil” three years previously.

Mr Mason had said in an email to campaign group Back Off Scotland that he attended the event, going on to say he considered abortion to be “seldom essential or vital”.

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