Anas Sarwar backs calls for SNP to reprimand John Mason over abortion care comments

Anas Sarwar has supported calls for the SNP to discipline an MSP after comments he made on abortion care.

In an exclusive interview with The Scotsman, the Scottish Labour leader also said he would be “open to discussions” around introducing emergency legislation to implement anti-abortion protest buffer zones around clinics.

His comments come with Scotland having recently seen a rise in anti-abortion protests, including outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow.

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On Friday, Mr Sarwar backed calls from Monica Lennon MSP, who previously urged the SNP to reprimand John Mason after he suggested NHS staff do not seek “informed consent” during abortion care.

The Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has supported calls for the SNP to discipline John Mason MSP after comments he made on abortion care.  (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The SNP MSP sparked outrage by claiming clinics “push abortion without laying out the pros and cons” as he defended anti-abortion protests, saying they “do not look very threatening to me”.

Speaking to The Scotsman in Hamilton, Mr Sarwar said: “What John Mason sought to do is provide deliberate misinformation that puts pressure on individual women across the country and it’s frankly shocking and unacceptable.

"Whatever your views on abortion, if you want to protest about political decisions or the laws in this country, the place to have those protests is outside Parliament where decisions are made, not outside places where places are getting medical treatment – that’s frankly horrific.”

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Mr Sarwar called on the Scottish Government to “not waste a single day” and implement buffer zones across the country, which he said had cross-party and public support.

He said the Government must do so, “so nobody has to see this intimidation or these acts outside places offering medical treatment”.

On Friday, Gillian Mackay launched her private member’s Bill in a bid to implement the 150m buffer zones on a national level.

People will be able to fill out a form on what they think of the Bill via the Scottish Parliament website or at bufferzones.scot.

The Labour leader welcomed the Bill, but added: “It shouldn't take a member’s Bill to get implemented.”

Asked whether he would support emergency legislation being passed, Mr Sarwar said he would “be open to discussions” on this.

He said: “Let’s not wait months or even years to get this implemented across the country.

"There is widespread public support for it right now, there is cross-party support for it right now and women are being impacted by this right now.”

Mr Sarwar said people should be able to protest in places such as outside Parliament, but stressed women should not be impacted by “fear or difficulty” when accessing healthcare.

Campaign group Back Off Scotland welcomed the Labour leader’s comments.

Lucy Grieve, co-founder of the group, said: “In lieu of Gillian Mackay MSP’s Member’s Bill or governmental action, we also need to explore stop-gap measures.”

The First Minister described Mr Mason’s comments as “wrong” after she backed calls to “protect women from harassment”.

Nicola Sturgeon has agreed to host an emergency summit on abortion care in Scotland to discuss buffer zones and other steps needed to ensure safe and timely access to this healthcare.

The Scottish Government has said it will work with partners to make arrangements to have the summit “as quickly as is practicable”.

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