Pro-choice politicians and campaigners are putting pressure on the Scottish government to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics in Scotland.
The charge is being led by campaign group Back Off Scotland, which wants prayer vigils and other pro-life activity to be banned within 150 metres of an abortion clinic.
Calls have intensified after an angry backlash over 40 Days for Life prayer vigils outside Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
Michael Robinson, Executive Director (Public Affairs and Legal Services) at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), defended the vigils: “Abortion stirs up strong opinions for many reasons, not least that ending a human life is extremely grave. The reality is that we now know that many women are coerced into having abortions.
“Those who turn up near to the locations where abortions are carried out, to offer prayer and help, do so with the greatest compassion and sensitivity.
“I know the hospital in Glasgow very well and for anyone to suggest that the location where people stand to pray could in anyway invade someone’s privacy or intimidate anyone, is completely preposterous.
“They are many hundreds of yards from any entrance to the buildings and they cannot even see who is entering the hospital building from where they are positioned.
“What such vigils do is offer a last glimmer of support for women who need somewhere else to turn when they have otherwise been made to feel abortion is their only option.”
The SNP last year made it one of their manifesto pledges to introduce buffer zones that will see pro-life groups excluded from the immediate vicinity of abortion clinics.
The Scottish government has established a working group to explore their implementation.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has refused to commit to a timeline.
Speaking to journalists this week, she said, “On all legislation we have to ensure that legislation is ECHR compliant and when you are, as some people would say, interfering in the right to protest there’s just a complex legal issue that we have to work our way through.”
She continued, “People know my views on abortion and people know my views on the right of women to control their own bodies and the right to choose.
“There is no part of me that would want to slow this down, so I want to make progress as quickly as possible.”
SPUC warned that the imposition of buffer zones would prevent vulnerable women from accessing vital support and information about alternatives to abortion.
Mr Robinson added: “It is troubling that when it comes to pro-life issues, basic human rights are to be trampled on.
“The intolerant ideologues pushing for buffer zones seem only to support freedoms for those who agree with them.
“The efforts in this instance are clearly aimed at removing people’s right to assembly.
“That is completely at odds with basic civil liberties and is completely neglectful of women who want an alternative to abortion.”