Campaigners launch national petition to end abortion clinic protests

Campaigners have launched a national petition to support fresh calls for protest-free zones around clinics providing abortions.
Lucille Grieve, Co founder of Back Off ScotlandLucille Grieve, Co founder of Back Off Scotland
Lucille Grieve, Co founder of Back Off Scotland

Back Off Scotland, a campaign group started by Edinburgh University students, hopes the petition will step up pressure on the Scottish government to bring in legislation for 150m protest-free ‘buffer’ zones around clinics.

It comes after a recent poll showed that 82 per cent of Scots want to end abortion clinic protests.

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Anti-choice protests in Scotland date back to 1999, with hospitals and clinics across the country being targeted. Protestors often approach patients directly and have distributed medically inaccurate leaflets. Even those not accessing abortion services are targeted, according to the group.

Back Off Scotland says protests are a threat to privacy and right to access legal, essential medical services.

Their petition, lodged with Edinburgh City Council, closed in January and gathered more than 4,800 signatures. A decision is pending on whether three-year legislation will enact buffer zones around the city’s abortion clinics.

Student Alice Murray, who attended Chalmers Street Sexual Health Centre in Edinburgh in 2019 seeking an abortion said: “I went to the Chalmers Street clinic in my third year of university after finding out I was pregnant. When I approached the building, there were protesters on the other side of the road. Whilst they luckily didn’t approach me, I was very aware of their presence. I went into the clinic alone and just wanted it to be an easy process, the staff inside were great but to have protesters outside questioning your decision really overshadows this and made the experience more stressful. They didn’t make me question my choice as I knew what was best for me, however they did add anxiety to the experience, it made me feel really angry.”

Back Off Scotland Co-Founder, Lucy Grieve, said: “Our end goal is to legislate for 150 metre buffer zones around clinics and hospitals that provide abortion services in Scotland, but it’s important to stress that the campaign doesn’t look to de-platform any organisation. We believe in freedom of speech and freedom to protest but not in a context that creates barriers to accessing healthcare. We need change now to protect our rights of accessing legal, essential medical care without fear of harassment and distress.”

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