GPs have backed buffer zones to keep anti-abortion protesters away from hospitals and clinics.

The Royal College of GPs has given its support to a bill that would establish 150-metre buffer zones to stop campaigners from holding protests outside medical facilities that provide abortion services

It follows the British Medical Association Scotland giving its backing.

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Dr Chris Williams, joint chair of RCGP Scotland, said: “We agree that these protests should not take place at health care settings, where patients have the right to access abortion care free from fear and healthcare staff have the right to work free from harassment.

“People seek abortion care for a multitude of reasons and we must protect their ability to seek advice at the earliest opportunity."

Dr Williams said the Royal College was “deeply concerned that protests could cause such distress to women that they defer their treatment”. 

He added: “It is the doctors, nurses and midwives at these facilities who are qualified to give safe medical care, and the undermining of medical advice by these protests is dangerous.

“We welcome the steps this bill takes to protect the safe access to healthcare for all.”

Protests have been taking place outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the city's Sandyford Clinic.

The people outside have said they are holding prayer vigils and not protests and claim they are there to offer an alternative to women.

However, women and staff have said they are being intimidated. It has even led to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chairing a summit to find ways of protecting staff and women from the protests.

READ MORE: Glasgow 'ready to pioneer' laws to curb anti-abortion protests outside hospitals

Glasgow City Council said it would be prepared to trial a by-law to set up buffer zones in the city.

Gillian Mackay, Green MSP, has published the member’s bill to introduce buffer zones, which the Scottish Government said it will support.

Mackay said: "I am very grateful for the support of the Royal College of GPs.

"I am glad that this bill has been supported by so many medical professionals as well as the public.

“Abortion rights are human rights, and, as the appalling decision to rollback reproductive rights in the USA shows, our progress can be fragile and we need to protect it.

“Nobody should be harassed or abused when accessing healthcare.

"By establishing buffer zones, we can put a stop to the shocking protests that we have seen from anti-choice campaigners.

"I will continue to work with the Royal College of GPs and other expert organisations to progress this legislation as quickly as possible.”