Rachael Clarke of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said that “The current law in Scotland just isn’t sufficient. These groups aren’t violent, but they target individual women and cause them immense distress.”
She said pro-life groups and persons “have every right to hold their opinion. They have every right to campaign, to contact their MSPs, and to share their beliefs. They don’t have a right to infringe women’s privacy and impact their emotional and mental wellbeing at the hospital gate.”
Back Off Scotland’s head of policy, Lucy Grieve, said that “As it stands, the Scottish Government believes that the police already have powers to address the issues of disorder that are potentially raised by clinic protests,” but she maintains “that more robust measures need to be considered.”
The group is preparing to launch a petition seeking a buffer zone around Glasgow abortion clinics as well.
Back Off Scotland is supported by BPAS and the Humanist Society Scotland.
Proposals for buffer zones around abortion clinics throughout England and Wales were rejected as disproportionate by the then-British Home Secretary in September 2018, after finding that most abortion protests are peaceful and passive.
Sajid Javid said that after reviewing the evidence, which included “upsetting examples of harassment … what is clear from the evidence we gathered is that these activities are not the norm, and predominantly, anti-abortion activities are more passive in nature.”
The typical activities of those protesting outside of abortion clinics in England and Wales “include praying, displaying banners and handing out leaflets,” Javid noted.
Javid said that there are already laws in place to protect people against intimidation and harassment in public spaces, including the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which extends to Scotland, and the Public Order Act 1986.
In England, a buffer zone was imposed by Ealing Council, in west London, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic in April 2018. The zone prevents any pro-life gathering or speech, including prayer, within about 330 feet of the clinic.
The Ealing buffer zone, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in August 2019, was cited by Javid as an example of a local government using civil legislation “to restrict harmful protest activities,” rather than a nationwide policy.
Shortly after the Ealing buffer zone was adopted, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said that “to remove from the environment of the abortion clinics alternative voices is to limit freedom of choice. Indeed, research shows that many women have been grateful for the last-minute support they have thereby received.”
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“The imposition of ‘no-prayer zones’ outside clinics – I mean prayerful vigil, not militant or disruptive action – is unhelpful, unjust and unnecessary,” Bishop Egan said.
Earlier this year the Scottish government introduced a hate crime bill, opposed by the country’s bishops, that would create a crime of stirring up hatred against any of the protected groups covered by the bill, which include race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.