ANTI-abortion campaigners have been condemned after launching a six-week string of "intimidating" protests outside clinics across Scotland.

On Wednesday, Texas-based anti-choice organisation 40 Days for Life began a 40-day "prayer vigil" targeting healthcare facilities in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, and Falkirk.

The launch of the concerning campaign coincides with International Safe Abortion Day, an annual day of action designed to defend, protect, and fulfil the right to accessible, safe and legal termination.

The protests - described as "appalling" by Green MSP Gillian Mackay - are set to run until November 6.

Mackay - who has branded the campaign as "40 days of intimidation" - is set to introduce legislation to create 150-metre safe access zones, or buffer zones, around clinics which would stop campaigners from targeting medical facilities and harassing women seeking an abortion or receiving other sexual health care and advice. 

Her bill has received the support of the Scottish Government, as well as the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs, while more than 12,000 people filled in the bill consultation.

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She said: “These protests are an appalling attempt to scare people out of accessing the healthcare they are entitled to. It will be 40 days of intimidation, and it has no place in a modern and progressive Scotland. The Bill that I am introducing will stop these protests for good. 

“It is shameful that they have chosen to launch this latest campaign of harassment on International Safe Abortion Day, a day which exists to promote safe and legal access to reproductive health.

The National: Gillian MackayGillian Mackay (Image: PA)

“Some of the campaigners we have seen have used graphic banners and loudspeakers. The service users and staff I have spoken to have told me about the terrible impact that these protests have had on them and others.

“There is still vital work that must be done in Scotland and around the world to ensure that people can access safe abortions. 

“When it comes to human rights, we can’t stand still. As the appalling decision to rollback reproductive rights in the US shows, our progress can be fragile. That is why we must do everything we can to protect and advance it."

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The group 40 Days for Life - which has said it will help mount a legal challenge if the buffer zones law is passed - was set up in 2004 by people protesting at an abortion facility in Texas.

It is said to have a network of several hundred volunteers across Scotland. 

Its protests have already left women entering Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow distressed, as men with graphic banners saying "babies of murdered here" and loudspeakers have shamed them and staff providing services. 

Nicola Sturgeon has said her miscarriage would have been made “much more upsetting” by anti-abortion protesters armed with “images of foetuses on placards”.

The First Minister, who previously spoke about the “painful experience” of losing a pregnancy in 2011, spoke on Tuesday about the “deeply distressing” impact anti-choice protests can have on BBC Scotland's Disclosure programme and said she was “concerned” but not surprised that an American-based group is now targeting Scotland in its activities.

Alice Murray, co-founder of pro-choice campaign group Back Off Scotland, experienced abortion clinic harassment herself at the Chalmers Street facility in Edinburgh.

She said she hoped buffer zone legislation can progress quickly and this would be the last 40 Days For Life protest Scotland sees.

She said of the protests: “It’s frustrating that today 40 Days For Life will start their next round of 40-day anti-choice protests and I’m sure it will be upsetting for many people to see.

“We are really hopeful that with the support from the Scottish Government, this may be the last 40 Days For Life protest we see outside a clinic in Scotland.

"Legislation understandably takes time and until buffer zones are in place, we understand that there is little that police or councils can do right now.

"The next 40 days will likely highlight exactly why we need buffer zones in Scotland.

“As someone who has experienced anti-choice harassment first-hand, I know how scary it can be to enter a clinic and it makes me feel sick that there are many people who may not receive essential health care this month due to the actions of one group.

"This is an opportunity for members of the public to raise awareness of this issue by writing to their MSPs and engaging with our online campaign to make sure we have full support from those who will vote on the bill.”