MSP claims Police Scotland takes "appropriate and proportionate" response to anti-abortion protests

Anti-abortion protests are handled by Police Scotland in an “appropriate and proportionate” way under anti-social behaviour laws, Scotland’s minister for community safety has said.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 3:18 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 4:48 pm

Ash Regan, Edinburgh Eastern MSP, said the Scottish Government buffer zones working group was looking at “all of the legislation” that could be used in response to anti-abortion protests.

However, this working group has not met since April. In the time that has passed after its last meeting, Nicola Sturgeon has agreed to hold an emergency abortion care summit on June 27.

It comes as certain clinics and abortion providers across Scotland have seen a rise in anti-abortion protest activity this year.

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The anger over inadequate abortion services provision in Scotland comes amidst growing pressure to impose buffer zones outside clinics to protect women from abuse. Picture: PA

Ms Regan said legislation considered by the Government for such protests includes anti-social behaviour laws, adding this is an “operational matter” for Police Scotland.

Speaking at Parliament on Wednesday, Ms Regan said: "[Police Scotland] assess each incident individually and will take appropriate and proportionate action in response to that.

"The Scottish Government fully supports Police Scotland to respond in such a manner at protest at abortion clinics if Police Scotland feel it’s merited and is required to protect individuals and public safety.”

However, some activists and women traumatised by anti-abortion protests have said both Police Scotland and the Government have “failed” women by not introducing 150m protest buffer zones around clinics.

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The MSP’s comments were in response to a topical question from Labour MSP Carol Mochan, who asked what discussions justice ministers have had with ministerial colleagues regarding using anti-social behaviour laws to prevent people carrying out intimidating protests outside abortion clinics.

During her line of questioning, Ms Mochan quoted the law on anti-social behaviour in Scotland that states a person has been involved in such behaviour if they cause or are likely to cause harm or distress to anyone. She said: “In what sense is deliberately seeking to scare or intimidate a woman who is simply pursuing the healthcare she is entitled to not anti-social?”

Ms Regan said "there is no place in our society for the harassment, abuse and intimidation of women and girls accessing healthcare services".

The MSP said Ms Sturgeon was committed to finding "meaningful solutions" at an abortion care in Scotland summit on Monday.