Outrage as Scottish Government begins 'civic mediation' process with anti-abortion protestors and those impacted

Thousands of pounds are being spent on a ‘civic mediation’ process between anti-abortion protestors and those impacted by their protests in Scotland.

The Scottish Government awarded a £10,000 contract to civic mediation company Centre for Good Relations to carry out the work.

The contract states it will provide civic mediation to “support dialogue between parties who hold vigils and protests out of abortion clinics and those who are affected by them”.

Alice Murray, who went through anti-abortion harassment and is from the campaign group Back Off Scotland, said: “I am really shocked and I think this is a bizarre move from the Scottish Government.

40 Days For Life hold a Prayer Vigil outside Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow (Photo: John Devlin).

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"Its really frustrating that this wasn’t something brought up at the abortion summit when we were in a room with professionals from the likes of BPAS.

"As someone who has been through clinic harassment, I would be really interested to know who would want to sign up to this, who would want to speak to them as I know I wouldn’t. The safeguarding there is really dangerous. It feels like putting the onus onto the victims, which I really disagree with."

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Dr Pam Lowe, who carried out a five-year study on anti-abortion protests across the UK, including Scotland, said the research would not help.

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She said the attempt at mediation appeared to “fundamentally misunderstand” the motivations of anti-abortion activists and claimed “there is no middle ground”.

"I do understand why they are trying it, but it's difficult to know what they are trying to achieve really because being completely against abortion is a religious view, so a dialogue is not going to change that.” said Dr Lowe. "They are utterly convinced women are pressured into abortion, they don’t trust health professionals and they believe they are given false information.

"Motherhood is so central to them and God given they can't imagine a world where women would opt for an abortion, so they genuinely think they are there to save women.

"Access to abortion for pro-choice campaigners is as important as it is to restrict it to anti-abortion protestors, so this dialogue will not be beneficial for anyone."

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Dr Lowe said the mediation might be part of a pre-emptive strategy for any legal challenges the Scottish Government faces with the implementation of buffer zones.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All women in Scotland should be able to access timely abortion care without judgement or intimidation. Last year, a working group was formed to explore possible ways to solve the problem of women being harassed outside abortion clinics as quickly as possible. A number of pieces of work have been commissioned by the working group to explore views in this area, including this work and research to develop a detailed picture of women’s experiences as a result of the protests.

“The Centre for Good Relations has met separately with various parties, including Back Off Scotland as patient representatives, to hear their views. There are no proposals whatsoever to hold meetings between patients and protestors as part of this process. The initial scoping phase is complete and we are currently discussing with the working group and the Centre for Good Relations whether this work should continue - not least as representatives of some protesters appear determined to carry on with their activities without regard for their impact.

“This only one of a number of actions being taken and the Scottish Government remains committed to national legislation, which is being discussed with Gillian Mackay MSP in relation to her proposed Bill for safe access zones.”

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