Campaigners have called for the resignation of the SNP’s women’s health minister after anti-abortion protesters were “shouting” outside of a Glasgow sexual health clinic.
The issue of introducing protest-free buffer zones outside medical clinics offering abortions has been a point of contention between campaigners and the Scottish Government in recent months as several demonstrations of up to 100 pro-life activists have gone ahead outside the facilities.
On Wednesday afternoon, two protesters were seen shouting and arguing outside the Sandyford clinic, while holding signs which read “abortion is murder” and “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” in images and video posted on social media.
Campaigners from buffer zone group Back Off Scotland said that they had been informed staff inside the building could not consult patients on the side of the building nearest to where the protest was happening.
As images and video clips spread online, the campaign group wrote: “Have just been told by staff it’s so loud they can’t consult on that side of the building and patients are in distress.
“Police maintain they can do nothing.
“Time for Maree Todd MSP to resign. This is being allowed and emboldened under her watch.”
An onlooker who was outside the clinic told STV News that when police attended the demonstration they advised they did not have powers to remove the protesters.
They eventually left after a much larger counter-protest arrived made up of around 20 people.
Lucy Grieve, co-founder of Back Off Scotland said: “We are appalled and devastated to see the scenes outside Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow today.
“Sandyford delivers a large range of reproductive and sexual health services including rape crisis support and counselling.
“Clinicians have had to stop what they are doing to move their cars outside the clinic, open car windows and blast music in an attempt to drown the shouting out.
“Nicola Sturgeon and Maree Todd must come in front of parliament this week and lay out their intentions to enact emergency legislation to tackle the issue in the short term.
“This can go on no longer. If the women’s health minister isn’t prepared to take courageous action on this, then she must step aside for someone who will.”
Central Scotland MSP Gillian Mackay, who has brought forth a member’s bill on the issue of buffer zones outside abortion clinics shared the clip of protesters shouting on her Twitter.
She commented: “I’ve contacted Police Scotland to ask why such a noisy protest outside a healthcare facility was allowed to go on for so long.
“The lack of action shows the urgent need for legislation to combat this harassment, that’s why I’m bringing forward my Bill.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 1.55pm on Wednesday, 11 May, 2022, officers attended following reports of a protest on Sandyford Place in Glasgow. Some of the group has dispersed and officers remain at the scene.
“Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation that puts our values of integrity, fairness, respect and a commitment to upholding human rights at the heart of everything we do.
“We have a duty under the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest or counter-protest balanced against the rights of the wider community.”
Women’s health minister Maree Todd said: “All women should be able to access universal healthcare, including abortion services, safely and without fear of harassment or judgement. There is no place in our society for the harassment, abuse and intimidation of women and girls accessing healthcare services.
“The Scottish Government supports the introduction of buffer zones. We have established a working group including partners like Police Scotland, COSLA, NHS Boards and local authorities to ensure any measures taken can withstand legal challenge. Clearly the recent referral of the Northern Irish Buffer Zone legislation the UK Supreme Court has a potential to add to the complexity of this issue, and we will be monitoring the progress of those proceedings very closely.
“I have also confirmed that the Scottish Government will work constructively with Gillian Mackay MSP on her planned Bill on buffer zones. I look forward to a consultation being opened soon.”