THE SNP has been criticised by campaigners after one of the party’s frontbenchers voted against a bill that would have banned protests outside English abortion clinics.

Lisa Cameron was the only one of the SNP’s 48 MPs to vote on the motion proposed by Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq.

Abortion Rights Scotland, said Cameron and the SNP needed to “be held accountable for why they think it is acceptable for women to be harassed while accessing routine healthcare.”

While Scottish Women's Aid suggested the MP wasn't fit to keep her job as the party's mental health spokesperson.

But the staunchly pro-life MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow said she was voting with her conscience. 

She also suggested current legislation meant Huq’s proposals were unnecessary. 

Cameron’s views on abortion are well known in the party. She and colleague Peter Grant were the only two SNP MPs to vote against lifting Northern Ireland’s abortion ban in 2018. Last year the Bishop of Paisley intervened after it looked as if she would face deselection over the row.

Groups said the MP’s support of groups protesting outside abortion clinics would damage the mental health of those seeking the procedure. 

Speaking to The Ferret, Jillian Merchant from Abortion Rights Scotland: “Given that this legislation, if passed, would not apply in Scotland, and that the SNP do not generally vote on ‘English-only’ issues, this not only calls into question Dr Cameron’s priorities but also demonstrates the lengths she is willing to go, as a law-maker, to inflict her anti-choice views on other women.

“Women should not have to run a gauntlet of protestors, be shouted at, have their decision-making questioned and be confronted with pictures of foetuses on their way to accessing routine healthcare.”

Merchant said the fact that the vote was a proxy vote submitted on Cameron's behalf by the SNP’s Chief Whip, Patrick Grady, was particularly concerning.

She said this called into question "the SNP’s commitment to abortion rights”.

Merchant added: “The SNP, as well as Dr Cameron, should be held accountable for why they think it is acceptable for women to be harassed while accessing routine healthcare.”

A spokeswoman for Scottish Women’s Aid said: “We find it unfathomable that any politician would vote against this bill, but particularly a politician with a responsibility for mental health, when women have told us for decades about the impact that limiting access to reproductive rights has on their mental wellbeing.”

Scottish Greens MSP Alison Johnstone said that women seeking to access reproductive health services “shouldn’t have to worry about avoiding demonstrations outside clinics”.

Responding to the criticisms, Cameron told The Ferret: “Prior to coming into politics, I worked as a clinical psychologist in mental health for over 20 years and on no occasion did anyone ever call into question my suitability because I am a Christian with pro-life views.

She added: “This was entirely a conscience vote by proxy, submitted on my behalf by the SNP Chief Whip, and it was also commensurate with the parliamentary review that national buffer zones are not a proportionate response, as legislation already exists to restrict protest activities that cause harm to others.”

Huq's Ealing constituency was the site of UK's first abortion clinic buffer zone. 

The 100-metre exclusion zone around the Marie Stopes centre was impleimplemented by the council after women complained of being intimidated.

The protesters said they were there to provide help.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Huq said lockdown "had provided some respite" from protesters but "now they are at it again."

She told MPs that staff at her local clinic reported "being hounded themselves" while women missed appointments or turned up in tears.

She said women did not need "to be met by lifelike medically inaccurate foetus dolls and graphic images, to be handed misleading literature, be called "Mum" and told they'd go to hell".