DOZENS of Glasgow doctors have written to Women's Health Minister Maree Todd demanding urgent action over abortion protests.

A total of 76 consultants have called on the MSP to "show courage" and introduce protest-free "buffer zones" across all clinics following a surge in protests from pro-life groups. 

Around 100 people stood outside the maternity unit entrance at Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) earlier this week to make their views known. 

While the protests are aimed at women accessing abortion services, the letter highlights the effects these demonstrations are having on medical staff and their patients, calling the "harassment" "deplorable".

READ MORE: Anti-abortion protesters target Glasgow's QEUH, prompting calls for action

Last year, a Scottish Humanist poll showed 82% of Scots want to end this type of targeted protest outside clinics and a Member’s Debate in the Scottish Parliament led by MSP Gillian Mackay highlighted cross-party support exists within Holyrood.

In November, Todd made further commitments to find an interim solution to stop women being harassed and intimidated when accessing care, however, there has so far been no intervention made.

Dr Greg Irwin, lead signatory and Consultant Paediatric Radiologist, said: “We, as consultants in the children’s and the maternity hospitals, are seriously concerned about the anti-abortion protests occurring outside the QEUH.

"We know first-hand how distressing this harassment is for our patients, which makes it infuriating for us as clinical staff to have to pass these groups day-in-day-out.

“The protesters on Hardgate Road are as close as they can get to the maternity unit, meaning that our patients in the wards can see and hear them. These women may well be feeling vulnerable and upset.

"They should not have to put up with judgement or intimidation outside our hospital. Implementing buffer zones is essential to deal with this problem.

“We ask the Scottish Government, and the Women’s Health Minister particularly, to take action immediately to move these protesters away from our hospital doors."

Dr Audrey Brown, a sexual and reproductive consultant, added: “For people accessing abortion care, and the staff providing it, the presence of anti-choice activists at the entrance to clinics and hospitals is distressing and is a form of emotional harassment. 

“These anti-choice protestors will further traumatise those who may be making a difficult decision. Whilst abortion care providers recognise the right to protest, this should not be at clinical sites, where individual patients and staff are harassed and intimidated."​

Student-run campaign Back Off Scotland has been calling for the implementation of 150m buffer zones since October 2020.

Following commitments in the SNP manifesto, the Scottish Government’s Women’s Health Plan, and the Programme for Government 2021/22, the group has criticised Todd for her inaction on the matter.

Lucy Grieve, co-founder, said: “This letter is a powerful reminder of just how many people anti-choice protests affect. Back Off Scotland is so grateful to these consultants for using their voices and standing up for Scottish women in a time where the Scottish Government is not.

READ MORE: Protests to take place at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in call for abortion buffer zones

“Not only do 70% of Scottish women live in areas where local clinics and hospitals have been targeted by anti-choice protests in recent years, we’ve heard numerous stories about the lasting impact that exposure to these protests has for patients. This is causing untold levels of harm across the board.

“The Women’s Health Minister’s lack of action over this matter calls into question her suitability to handle the women’s health portfolio. She needs to take swift action to introduce universal buffer zones around clinics."

This year, Northern Ireland and Spain have both banned anti-abortion protests outside healthcare facilities providing abortion.

Todd said: “The Scottish Government is committed to women being able to access timely abortion without judgement. I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, any attempts to intimidate women as they choose to access abortion services.

“We look forward to Gillian Mackay MSP bringing forward her member’s bill on buffer zones and I have publicly committed to work constructively with her in this regard.

“I have convened a working group with partners such as COSLA, Police Scotland and affected councils and health boards to look at how to address the vigils and protests that take place outside abortion clinics.”