AN SNP MSP with anti-abortion views has been told to "listen to women" by the First Minister after he suggested buffer zone legislation was an "overreaction".

John Mason stood up at First Minister's Questions and claimed women going for abortions were not being intimidated or harassed by people holding protests and prayer vigils outside abortion services.

He added he felt a bill introduced by Green MSP Gillian Mackay to create 200m buffer zones around abortion facilities was an "overreaction" to "a few elderly, religious people" standing outside clinics.

But Humza Yousaf took him to task, advising him to listen to women affected by the protests who have given "powerful testimonies and evidence" about how they have been impacted.

He said it was not for men to impose how they feel about the protests onto women.

READ MORE: Bishop compares prayer vigils at abortion clinics to Faslane peace camps

Mason said: "Would the First Minister not accept that no one is being harassed at these vigils or protests, no one is being intimidated, it is largely a small group of elderly, religious people standing at these facilities. Does he not think we are overreacting with legislation on this?"

Yousaf responded: "I think what’s so important in this, particularly for men, is to listen to the voices of women and women tell us and have given powerful evidence and testimony that whatever John Mason’s views may be, they feel harm is being done.

"They do feel harassed and they do feel intimidation. Even if John Mason was to discard that evidence, and I would urge him not to, he should also listen to the clinicians at the services - the likes of Dr Greg Irwin and others who have spoken very powerfully about the impact it’s also having on staff.

"John Mason  knows I’m a religious person. I pray. But [...] you can pray anywhere in the world for whatever you want. Why you have to go to an abortion service, where women feel then harassed and intimidated, I have to say I do not understand.

"I would say again to John Mason, it’s so crucial that as opposed to men perhaps imposing their view on what the effects of protests are to women, John Mason would do well to listen to the voices of women and clinicians and staff at abortion services." 

Yousaf added Mackay's legislation - which is currently being scrutinised by MSPs as part of its Stage One passage through Parliament - should command the support of all parties. 

People holding vigils outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital are part of the Texas-based 40 Days for Life organisation and they have been spotted recently holding placards saying "abortion is not healthcare".

The exchange between Mason and Yousaf at FMQs came after opponents of Mackay's bill gave evidence to Holyrood's health committee earlier this week where Bishop John Keenan defended anti-choice demonstrations by comparing them to peace camps at Faslane.

He was also shot down by GP and Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane after he passed around leaflets he claimed were "factually accurate," only for Gulhane to determine they were full of "concerning misinformation" on public record.