Monica Lennon demands health minister ‘breaks silence’ on anti-abortion protests


Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon has slammed Health Minister Maree Todd for failing to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics after protestors ramped up efforts to intimidate women.

It comes weeks after protests around the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, with over 100 protesters joining the latest campaign.

Last week 76 Scottish doctors signed an open letter to the Health Minister calling for her intervention.

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labor and Co-operative representative, has now written to Ms Todd urging her to ‘end her silence’ and introduces protest-free buffer zones around healthcare facilities.

Maree Todd MSP Minister for Public Health
Maree Todd MSP Minister for Public Health

Part of her letter read: “Under your watch, Scotland is now seen as an easy target by those who wish to end abortion.

“The escalation of co-ordinated protests near clinics provides clear evidence that access to abortion healthcare is under attack in Scotland.

“Please confirm that the Scottish Government will keep its promises and outline when national legislation will be introduced?”

Campaign group Back Off Scotland, also mentioned in Monica’s letter, have been calling for the implementation of 150 meter buffer zones since October 2020.

The group recently called for Ms Todd to resign over her ‘failure’ to act on the issue.

Back Onside shared a photo of protestors standing outside Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on Sunday evening
Protesters standing outside Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on Sunday evening

Monica said: “The failure of Scottish ministers to take swift and decisive action has led to an increase in co-ordinated protests aimed at women and people accessing abortion healthcare, and the protesters are only becoming more emboldened.

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“Enough is enough. It is time to break your silence and make a clear commitment to introduce legislation for buffer zones at abortion healthcare facilities.

“After all, this was a promise made in the SNP’s manifesto and the Scottish Government’s Program for Government. A timescale is now needed.

“This needs the full weight of the Scottish Government behind it. Silence from Maree Todd is not acceptable; she must set out a clear plan and timescale for action.

Lead signatory and consultant pediatric radiologist, Dr Greg Irwin
Dr Greg Irwin was the lead signatory of a letter to Maree Todd last week

“It is time she took responsibly and addressed the matter in Parliament.”

Monica is also urging the Scottish Government to commit to permanent access to telemedicine for early abortion.

This was established during the pandemic to allow women to take drugs for early medical abortion in their own homes without the requirement of an in-person appointment.

Permanent access is now in place in both England and Wales.

Monica said: “Unfortunately, Scotland is falling behind other parts of the UK in terms of committing to permanent access to telemedicine for early abortion.

Rose, far right, with other protestors on Friday
Rose, far right, with other protestors on Friday

“The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists considers access to telemedicine for early abortion one that protects women’s rights to access the healthcare they deserve and gives them the choice of accessing early abortion care at home.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about abortion rights, Scotland must not trail behind England and Wales on appropriate provisions for early abortion.”

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Monica also brought up both issues during First Minister’s Questions today as she asked Nicola Sturgeon if she regretted that ‘swift action’ had not been taken to implement buffer zones.

Responding, Sturgeon said the Health Minister was committed to seeing if work being done by the buffer zones working group could be accelerated but stressed there were “complex” legal issues.

The First Minister also condemned protests outside of abortion facilities.

She said: “I condemn, and I will do so on 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.”

Women’s Health Minister Maree 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.

“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.

“These are complex issues, but we are seeking to make progress as quickly as possible.

“In particular, we look forward to Gillian Mackay MSP bringing forward her member’s bill on buffer zones. I and the working group met her this morning to discuss her proposals for her and I have publicly committed to work constructively with her on this.

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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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