SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has said she is committed to defending the right to have an abortion.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay is aiming to introduce legislation which would stop anti-abortion protesters from gathering outside clinics which outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously said the Scottish Government would back. 

In an interview with ITV, Forbes was asked about her views on both the bill and if she supported the right to have an abortion under the current laws.

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She said: “I couldn’t conceive of having an abortion myself. I’ve seen my baby at 12 weeks and 20 weeks but yes, I defend the right of women to make use of that legal provision to access abortion.”

Forbes was then asked if this meant she would defend the current law which allows women to have an abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

“My position is that I wouldn’t change the law as it stands”, she added.

The topic then turned to Mackay’s bill and what the specifics of working with the Green MSP on this would involve.

“I think with the bill the basis of my position is that nobody seeks a termination lightly. There are emotionally vulnerable women seeking these terminations and they should do so free of fear and harassment”, said Forbes.

The National: Kate Forbes was asked about her views on abortionKate Forbes was asked about her views on abortion

“In that sense, the purpose of the bill makes sense. Any bill that is good law needs to make sure its targeted and that’s where I’ve said I’m happy to work with her.”

Meanwhile, Westminster’s Women’s and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch said she admired Forbes for being “honest”.

Speaking at a Politico event, she said she was “not particularly religious” and supported same-sex marriage but that she would not condemn anyone “for having personal views”.

Badenoch said that it would be very easy for Forbes to “tell lies just so that she could win that election”.

“And she’s not doing that, and I think that that’s something that people need to take into account”, she added. 

Badenoch continued: “I actually admire her [Forbes] for not being dishonest. It’s very easy for her to tell lies, just so that she could win that election. And she’s not doing that, and I think that that’s something that people need to take into account.”

Citing her role as Women and Equalities Minister, she added: “To ask me to criticise someone for their religious beliefs, when I’m supposed to be safeguarding it, shows that those people don’t understand equality.

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“What they want is to use the Equality Act to fight their own personal battles, rather than as a shield to prevent others from discrimination.”

Forbes’s comments come as the Scottish Greens condemned the “disgraceful” and “utterly unacceptable” protests organised by anti-choice campaign groups outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow.

Mackay’s legislation is aiming to create 150 metre sage access zones or “buffer zones” which would stop campaigners from targeting the facilities.

She said: “These protests are a disgraceful attempt to intimidate people out of accessing healthcare. Some of the protesters carry very graphic banners and other protests have seen loudspeakers and megaphones.

“It will be a 40 day gauntlet of harassment. It is utterly unacceptable and has no place in a modern and progressive Scotland.”

She added: “I hope that this is the last year that we see these protests. The introduction of buffer zones will set an important precedent and will be a watershed moment for reproductive rights in Scotland.”