An SNP MSP has claimed that abortion services are rarely “essential” or “vital” and insisted that some women be forced to get a dismissal.
John Mason also described a collection against abortion outside a hospital as a “vigil” and said he was not convinced by calls for new legislation to protect women.
Pre-selected campaigners are calling for 150-meter ‘buffer zones’ – or protest-free areas – around health facilities that provide abortion services across Scotland.
They believe the move is necessary to protect women from harassment by campaigners near clinics.
Mason, representing Glasgow Shettleston, was contacted by a constituent party who asked him to back the buffer zone plan, which is backed by the Back Off Scotland group.
She wrote: “Buffer zones would stop this harassment-moving anti-election activities away from the clinic and hospital gates and give people access to care without harassment, alarm and distress.
“Election groups will still be able to protest outside Holyrood, on the High Street, on the Internet — but would not be able to target individual patients trying to access legal, essential services.”
“Therefore, I ask you to support the introduction of a new statutory provision based on laws already in place in Canada, Australia and the Isle of Man, to move these protesters away from the hospital entrance.
“Not to stop protesting, but to tell them that harassing people trying to access health care is not acceptable.”
In response, Mason wrote that abortion is a “very controversial and sensitive issue”.
He added: “I have only attended one of these gatherings outside a hospital.
“It was at the QEUH in Glasgow and could not really be described as a protest. It was more like a guard.
“They were standing across a wide road from the entrance to the hospital and certainly did not approach anyone, harass anyone or cause alarm or distress. Therefore, I wonder which places in Scotland have caused a problem?”
Mason wrote: “I am of the opinion that abortion services are completely legal, but I would have thought that they are rarely ‘essential’ or ‘vital’.
“You point out that someone may not have support when they visit a hospital or a clinic. However, it may also be the case that this is one of the few options they realize they have a choice.
“Unfortunately, some women are forced by a partner or family to have an abortion when they may not be aware that they have a choice, for example by having the child and giving him / her up for adoption.”
He concluded: “Therefore, I am generally not convinced that we have a major problem in Scotland or need new legislation.”
Back from Scotland tweeted: “Really disappointing email to wake up to a Thursday morning. John Mason, an SNP MSP, who states that he has participated in an election protest and that abortion services are “rarely essential or vital”.
Labor’s Monica Lennon, who two weeks ago asked Sturgeon about buffer zones at FMQs, said: “This is a deeply worrying admission from anti-choice MSP John Mason and needs to be fully investigated by the SNP.
“Those who gather in this way near clinics are causing distress to women seeking abortion services.
“Nicola Sturgeon can see no other way anymore. The Back Off Scotland campaign calls for urgent legislation on buffer zones around abortion clinics to allow women to access abortion services safely and free from harassment. Ministers must continue to do so.”
While Scottish Labor spokesman for Social Security Pam Duncan-Glancy commented: “Really very disappointing.
“Solidarity with all women who have access to abortions – I hope you do not experience intimidation of any kind when seeking your health care.”
Scottish Green Health spokesman Gillian Mackay said: ‘It’s a long time since John Mason came to recognize that 82 per cent of Scots want to quit these’ vigils’ because most people recognize that women should have the right to access healthcare without being harassed, intimidated or made to feel that their morals are in doubt.
“This is not a moral issue, it is one of rights, and I would urge local authorities to use existing statutes to ensure that women have access to services.”
Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “John Mason is wildly out of touch with the people of Scotland. It’s really pretty scary that someone with views like this is a legislator with the power to influence women’s health care.
“Abortion services have been a part of health care for decades. For many years, my party and I have supported campaigners calling for the creation of these buffer zones. Every patient should be able to receive the medical treatment he or she needs without fear of harassment or intimidation. . “
In the tweet, the group also asked Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon if Mason’s response had been “appropriate”.
Scottish Tory MSP Sue Webber said: “John Mason has once again proven himself sadly out of touch with modern Scotland by describing abortion as rarely important.”
“For an SNP MSP to underestimate the great importance of access to reproductive health care is simply outrageous.”
“We must ensure that women across Scotland have access to this vital service without harassment or judgment.”
In a speech to the journal, Mason confirmed the email and said he believed life begins at conception.
SNP has been contacted.
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