Health Minister Maree Todd has been accused of expecting overworked and overworked health staff to ‘act like bouncers’.
MSPs and campaigners have widely criticized the Scottish Government’s Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport for being ‘out of touch with reality’ after suggesting that people facing harassment outside abortion clinics should discuss their concerns with service providers.
It comes after Labor MSP Monica Lennon submitted a parliamentary question in light of recent protests at the Sandyford Health Clinic in Glasgow, as well as ongoing protests outside the QEUH.
She asked, “What support can be given to anyone who might be reluctant to come to sexual health and Pap smear appointments at clinics where anti-abortion protests are taking place?”
In a written response, Maree Todd said: “The Scottish Government believes that all women have the right to access comprehensive universal healthcare, including abortion services, without fear or intimidation.
“The Scottish Government is currently considering how to tackle the protests and vigilantes that intimidate women when accessing health services, and is looking to make progress as soon as possible.
“In light of recent protests outside sexual health clinics, if a person feels uncomfortable attending an appointment, they should contact the clinic directly to discuss their concerns.”
The comment received major backlash, with many believing an additional burden is now placed on healthcare staff whose morale is already at an all-time low with the anti-abortion lobby.
Central Scotland representative Monica said: ‘The climate of fear and intimidation caused by the anti-abortion lobby has left women afraid to go to hospitals and clinics.
“Doctors, midwives and nurses have to pick up the pieces when their morale is already low.
“Healthcare workers shouldn’t be expected to act as bouncers, just as women shouldn’t have to run the gauntlet of anti-abortion activists.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt unless the Scottish Government starts to take the appropriate action.
“Responding to calls from Back Off Scotland and other abortion rights campaigners, Nicola Sturgeon has agreed to chair an emergency summit and it must happen urgently, with unions representing health workers at Table.”
Back Off Scotland is calling for 150m buffer zones to be put in place around clinics that have been offering abortion services since 2020.
Their co-founder slammed Maree Todd for her suggestion as she slammed the ‘shocking’ comment and described it as ‘out of touch’.
Lucy Grieve, co-founder of Back Off Scotland, said: “It is shocking that we have come to a point where government inaction has paved the way for ministers asking understaffed and overwhelmed sexual health establishments to ‘offer advice to people in distress by protesters.
“To echo the sentiments of a QEUH midwife I spoke to yesterday, the Women’s Health Minister’s suggestion is out of touch with reality.
“Instead of primary legislation – which will take a long time to pass through parliament – it is vital that the Scottish Government use their powers and enact emergency legislation as a stopgap measure.
“The Scottish Government, under Maree Todd, is failing women and staff at every turn on the buffer zone issue.
“At its core, this is a problem of access to health care and we need a solution for these protests before anyone gets hurt.
Monica Lennon’s parliamentary question came after anti-abortion protests outside the Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow left patients distressed and in tears.
Two men outside were seen holding sickening signs stating ‘babies are being murdered here’.
Staff were forced to play loud music from their own cars in a desperate attempt to drown out protesters who were using a microphone while arguing with activists.
One of the men was recorded saying, “It’s a human being, it’s alive. That’s why they call it an abortion. You’re ending the life of a baby – a human being – where is their right?
It is unclear whether the men belong to the same US anti-abortion group, 40 Days For Life, which campaigns outside the QEUH every Tuesday.
Gillian Mackay MSP has now launched a consultation on her member’s bill to introduce national buffer zone laws.
Maree Todd MSP has been contacted for comment.
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