THE Bill to ban anti-abortion protests directly outside hospitals and health clinics has been backed by a committee of MSPs.

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill is going through the Scottish Parliament and has been before the Health Committee.

Today it has been announced the committee has approved the general principles of the Bill.

It was proposed by Gillian Mackay, Scottish Greens MSP, to prevent the protests that regularly occur outside places like the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the Royal Infirmary and the Sandyford Clinic.

The committee stated: “The evidence it has gathered has led it to conclude that the creation of safe access zones around abortion services are necessary to protect women’s rights so they can access healthcare services without experiencing harassment and undue influence.”

It also recognised the “potential impact the Bill will have in restricting the human rights of those who engage in anti-abortion activity outside abortion services”.

Glasgow Times:

However, it found the restrictions on human rights are proportionate to achieving the aims of the Bill.

A report said there were differing views on the committee on the issue of silent prayer.

Those taking part in the protests, like recent ones under the 40 Days for Life campaign during Lent, claim they are staging a vigil, or engaging in prayer.

The committee said: “It could be difficult for the police to decide whether a law has been broken by people silently praying and that this issue requires further consideration.”

Adding the “Bill’s implementation needs to be subject to ongoing post-legislative review to ensure that these restrictions continue to be proportionate and kept to a necessary minimum”.

Clare Haughey MSP, Convener of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, said: “Our Committee is united in backing the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill.

“We recognise the strong views it has generated and that not all are in favour of its introduction.

“But ultimately we believe the creation of safe access zones around abortion services is necessary to enforce the principle that everyone should be able to access healthcare free from intimidation or harassment.

“We understand there are competing human rights at play but we have concluded this Bill strikes an appropriate balance.”

She said there were “extensive discussions” on the issue of silent prayer and some Members felt this should be exempt.

Others however felt an exemption would “fundamentally undermine its purpose and that silent prayer can be intimidating to those accessing services”.