The two middle-aged men protesting outside a sexual health clinic in Glasgow held up signs with Bible verses equating abortion with murder, while one appeared to be wearing a body camera, filming anyone who entered inside.
Their actions, counter-protesters say, amount to harassment of staff and patients who use the Sandyford clinic and contributed to plans for a new buffer zone that would stop any protests or vigils around clinics that provide health services. abortion in Scotland.
Proponents of the move say it would defuse an often turbulent atmosphere that is intimidating for patients; while opponents say it restricts their freedom of speech and freedom to protest.
“In Sandyford, the building boundary is right on the sidewalk, so it’s not like a university hospital where protesters could be kept away,” explained Gillian MackayMember of Scottish Parliament for the Greens, who introduced a bill to create buffer zones to keep protesters 150 yards from clinics where abortions are performed.
“These protesters are outside the front door with a loud megaphone, which can be heard inside the building, and clinicians have to move services from the front of the building because of the noise,” he said. she told Euronews.
Sandyford, like other sexual health clinics, not only provides abortion services, but also offers STI screenings, counseling for victims of sexual assault and rape, as well as family planning services and of birth control.
So there are fears that protesters who want to specifically target women who go inside for abortions could intimidate other patients as well.
Political and professional support for buffer zones
The new buffer zone bill is in the final stages of public consultation this week and has already attracted more than 5,000 comments “very supportive of the bill”, Mackay told Euronews.
There has been exceptionally broad support for the initiative in the Scottish parliament, bringing together unlikely political allies to support Mackay’s proposal.
There are also hopes that any political opposition will be limited to single digits when the bill is voted on at Holyrood.
“It’s really not about winning the problem anymore, which I think is supported in most parts of progressive Scottish society. The problem is already solved, and now it’s about how to make the project of sound law,” Mackay explained.
Lawmakers and campaigners have worked with groups who could potentially be affected by a no-protest zone, including Scottish Trade Unions and the Local Authority Coordinating Group, to ensure their rights are not infringed – by example, do not criminalize the right to picket outside a building in the event of industrial action.
The British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, Youth Councils and Glasgow and Aberdeen City Councils have come out strongly in support of the bill.
There is also broad support among the Scottish public for the introduction of buffer zones, a move backed by 68% of Scots, while only 8% opposed it. according to a recent survey.
Nicola Sturgeon’s “summits” on access to abortion
At the end of June, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hosted a summit on abortion care in Scotland and said “no one should be prevented from seeking the services to which they are entitled”.
The meeting came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade decision which ended a constitutional right to abortion in America, a move Sturgeon called “catastrophic and horrific” and “one of the darkest days for women’s rights in my life.”
Another peak at the end of august should consider ways in which local councils can do more to protect women visiting sexual health clinics, before any buffer zone laws come into force.
“The Scottish Government is committed to introducing buffer zones as quickly as possible. Women must be able to access abortion services without fear of being harassed or intimidated in any way,” a spokeswoman told Euronews.
“We are committed to convening further discussions with local government on how best to move forward to protect patients’ rights and to consider using regulations to establish buffer zones.”
Who are the anti-abortion protesters?
Although it is not true that all clinics in Scotland are targeted by anti-abortion campaigners, a number of clinics such as Sandyford in Glasgow have become focal points for protesters and the ‘Americanisation’ of their activities raises more and more concerns.
Based in Texas 40 days for life The organization has already planned a week-long protest outside a clinic in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh in September, as the group’s chairman Shawn Carney said over the weekend that Scotland was “dying to live in the stone age of biology, science and free speech”.
“This is why the pro-life movement is winning at home and abroad,” he wrote on Twitter.
Carney’s organization works with an evangelical law firm called ADF International whose London spokeswoman, Lois McLatchie, was interviewed by Scottish media saying that the buffer zones “prohibit legitimate offers of help and silent prayer”.
“Women have a right to hear about these options when they need them and it’s condescending of the government to say women don’t want to hear this,” McLatchie said. told BBC Scotland in a recent interview.
The ADF boasts of “engaging at the highest levels of law and governance” of the European Union, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, but the Southern Poverty Law Center , which monitors extremism in the United States, has called the ADF a “hate group” and documented a long list of times the ADF campaigned against the rights of sexual and gender minorities.
“What we saw in Sandyford shows this is not silent prayer,” said MSP Gillian Mackay. “And we saw up to a hundred people outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow. It’s bullying.”
Grace Brownie of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children SPUC in Scotland disagrees with this and says that most “pro-life” vigils are “passive and peaceful in nature” and therefore buffer zones are not necessary.
“I don’t think there is a sense of harassment or intimidation outside of the clinics or facilities. I live in Glasgow very close to the hospital where a pro-life vigil is taking place, and I think that there are a lot of misrepresentations about what the vigil looks like and what the vigil is there to do,” she told Euronews.
The SPUC wants their actions, which they present as a “vigil”, to be seen differently from some of the loudest and most radical “protests” that have taken place.
“What we are doing is not a protest, it is a peaceful community vigil to offer support to vulnerable women and offer a final lifeline.”
“Coercion into abortion is a problem in Scotland,” she adds, and says women tell her organization that they “are pressured to have abortions and are unable to make an informed choice”.
The SPUC believes Scottish authorities already have enough laws in place to tackle harassment and bullying – something most politicians, medical groups and the majority of the Scottish public disagree with.