Doctors want action over abortion protests as patients face ‘deplorable intimidation and harassment’

Scores of doctors have called for action after a large anti-abortion protest was held near a hospital in Glasgow.

More than 100 anti-abortion activists from the 40 Days for Life campaign group gathered outside the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on Sunday.

In a letter to Scottish women’s health minister Maree Todd, a group of 76 clinicians from the hospital urged the politician to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics as they accused the campaigners of intimidation and harassment.

A statement on the campaign group’s website says it’s international anti-abortion protests are a ‘peaceful and educational presence’.

Written by the Back Off Scotland campaign group, the letter said thousands of women having an abortion in Scotland every year have to attend hospitals targeted by protesters.

Buffer zones would ban certain activities designed to deter or prevent women from accessing abortion care within 150 meters of the entrance to a clinic or hospital, the organization said.

Similar measures have already been introduced in Northern Ireland, Spain and Australia, while with Ealing Council in west London introduced the UK’s first ever buffer zone around an abortion clinic in 2018.

In their letter, the consultants wrote: “For the last six years, our patients have been subjected to these protests by associates of the American-based campaign group 40 Days for Life.

“This group seeks to restrict women’s access to healthcare. The stated aims for their ‘vigil’ are to serve ‘as a call to repentance for those who work at the abortion center and those who patronize the facility’.

“As well as being our patients, these women are our sisters, daughters and colleagues. They deserve compassion and support.

“They should be spared the deplorable intimidation and harassment which they currently receive from protesters.

“Similar protests have been going on at hospitals and clinics across Scotland since the 1990s, and we believe that Scottish Government action is long overdue.”

The group told Ms Todd it was time to “follow the lead” of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which passed a Safe Access Zone Bill last month.

Similar legislation against harassment and intimidation of women was announced last week in Spain and in Australia in 2021.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, has also written to Ms Todd to ask the Scottish Government to give local authorities the ability to introduce buffer zones.

Ms Todd said: “The Scottish government is committed to women being able to access timely abortion without judgement.

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

“We look forward to Gillian Mackay MSP bringing forward her member’s bill on buffer zones and I have publicly committed to work constructively with her in this regard.

“I have agreed to a working group with partners such as COSLA, Police Scotland and affected councils and health boards to look at how to address the vigils and protests that take place outside abortion clinics.”

The 40 Days for Life group is a US-based organization that coordinates campaigns aiming to end abortion around the world.

According to their website: “The visible, public centerpiece of 40 Days for Life is a focused, 40-day, non-stop, round-the-clock prayer vigil outside a single Planned Parenthood center or other abortion facility in your community.

“It is a peaceful and educational presence. Those who are called to stand witness during this 24-hour-a-day presence send a powerful message to the community about the tragic reality of abortion.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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