Call for women's health minister to resign after anti-abortion protest

Around 100 anti-abortion protesters gathered outside Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on Sunday.

Back Off Scotland call for Maree Todd MSP to resign over Glasgow anti-abortion protest Twitter
Protest: More than 100 anti-abortion protesters gathered outside a Glasgow hospital on Sunday.

A pro-choice campaign group has called on the women’s health minister to resign after dozens of anti-abortion protesters gathered outside a Glasgow hospital on Sunday. 

Around 100 pro-life campaigners from the 40 Days for Life group gathered on Hardgate Road outside Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which faces the maternity unit at the hospital. 

The group has been holding 40 days of ‘vigils’ outside the hospital, starting on March 2 and culminating on Sunday. 

Pro-choice organisation Back Off Scotland slammed the group’s decision to protest outside the hospital, adding that women’s health minister Maree Todd should resign over her “lack of action” in tackling anti-choice protesters. 

The group tweeted on Sunday: “The women’s health minister @MareeToddMSP needs to resign – this is happening unchallenged on her watch.”

Back Off Scotland have been calling for 150m buffer zones to be installed around clinics that provide abortion services to protect women from intimidation from protesters.  

Lucy Grieve, co-founder of Back Off Scotland, said: “Since our campaign started in October 2020, we’ve seen multiple commitments to buffer zones in manifestos, the Women’s Health Plan, the Programme for Government, and within the Scottish Parliament chamber. 

“Despite repeated calls and cross-party support, the women’s health minister has provided no statement or solution and has taken no responsibility despite this issue affecting 70% of Scottish women who live in health board areas where anti-choice protesters frequent.

“This is real, tangible, and documented harassment and intimidation that is causing untold harm. We’ve heard numerous stories about the lasting impact that exposure to these protests has for women at their most vulnerable point when seeking these services. 

“The women’s health minister’s lack of action and outrage over this matter calls into question her suitability to the women’s health portfolio. She needs to take swift action to introduce universal buffer zones around clinics to protect those accessing these services now.”

Maree Todd MSP responded on Tuesday: “The Scottish Government believes all women in Scotland should be able to access timely abortion care without judgment, within the limits of the law, should they require it. I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, any attempts to intimidate women as they choose to access abortion services.

“I have convened a working group with partners such as COSLA, Police Scotland and affected councils and health boards to seek to find an appropriate way forward as soon as possible in relation to protests or vigils outside abortion clinics.

“The working group is continuing to explore ways to ensure that women can access abortion services without feeling harassed or intimidated.

“We are looking 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.”

Police Scotland said it had not been made aware of any issues following the protest on Sunday. 

STV has contacted 40 Days for Life for comment.