Fresh calls have been made by medical leaders to set up protest-free buffer zones outside abortion clinics after the First Minister offered to chair an emergency summit on the matter.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), representing more than 14,000 doctors across the UK, has called for national legislation to prevent the harassment and intimidation of patients and healthcare professionals outside abortion clinics nationwide.
The calls follow the recent announcement by Nicola Sturgeon of an emergency summit as harassment around abortion clinics ramps up in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, president of the FSRH said that harassment and intimidation outside clinics causes “great distress for women and girls accessing abortion care” and that demonstrations are “unacceptable and a cause for serious concern”.
She added that protests outside clinics make it “difficult, and demoralising, for healthcare professionals to deliver legal, essential sexual and reproductive healthcare”.
Dr Kasiwal said: “The only way to ensure patients are able to access healthcare free of harassment and intimidation is the legal implementation of buffer zones around abortion clinics across the UK.
“We call on the Home Office and devolved Governments to bring forward national legislation to protect the safety of people accessing abortion services and healthcare professionals providing care.”
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We fully support calls for legislation to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics.
“Everyone should have the right to access healthcare services without judgement, or fear of harassment, and access to safe abortion is no exception. Abortion care is an essential sexual and reproductive health service, and buffer zones must be introduced to ensure that the privacy and rights of those who access these services are respected.
“The harassment and ongoing intimidation of women and staff outside of abortion clinics is unacceptable and would not be tolerated for any other healthcare service.”
Earlier this month, Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay launched a private member’s bill to implement 150m buffer zones around clinics offering abortions following a recent rise in pro-life protests.
In recent days, Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and the Sandyford Clinics have drawn attention as anti-abortion protesters have attended holding signs reading things such as “Abortion is Murder”.
Pro-life groups such as 40 Days for Life and SPUC have claimed that the protests are “peaceful vigils” which give women an “alternative option” to abortion.
Anti-abortion campaign group Compassion Scotland claim legislation to impose buffer zones would “unfairly restrict free expression”.