Nicola Sturgeon warns of ‘deeply distressing’ impact of anti-abortion protests

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 Scottish First Minister, who previously spoke about the “painful experience” of losing a pregnancy in 2011, has announced her Government will back a Bill to create “buffer zones” around clinics which carry out terminations.

With the US-based group 40 Days for Life now carrying out demonstrations outside some abortion facilities in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon spoke about the “deeply distressing” impact these activities can have.

Speaking to BBC Scotland’s Disclosure programme, she said: “The only personal experience I can bring to bear on this is you know, I’ve spoken about this publicly, when I had a miscarriage.

“Being in a hospital around that, and one of the most upsetting and traumatic experiences of my life, trying to imagine how much more upsetting that would be, have been, had I had to go in or leave that hospital and walk past images of foetuses on placards.

“That’s the only personal experience I can bring to bear but that personal experience gives me some insight into how deeply distressing that must be for not just women accessing abortion services, but women accessing a whole range of different services.”

Ms Sturgeon said she was “concerned” but not surprised that an American-based group is now targeting Scotland in its activities.

Pro-life campaigners in the US have recently been boosted by the country’s Supreme Court overturning the landmark Roe v Wade ruling on abortion.

Ms Sturgeon said such groups “want to take away women’s control over their own bodies and rights”.

She said: “Am I surprised that they want to try and export that to other countries and to stir up the same sort of opposition to women’s rights? No I am not, but I’m pretty determined that I will do everything I can to resist it.”

Green MSP Gillian Mackay is seeking to get a member’s Bill through Holyrood to create ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics (Katharine Hay/PA)
Green MSP Gillian Mackay is seeking to get a member’s Bill through Holyrood to create ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics (Katharine Hay/PA)

In her Programme for Government earlier this month, Ms Sturgeon confirmed the Scottish Government will work with Green MSP Gillian Mackay “to safeguard the access of women to abortion services without harassment or intimidation”.

A member’s Bill brought forward by Ms Mackay aims to create zones around centres providing abortion, where those opposed to the practice would be forbidden from demonstrating.

However Shawn Carney, chief executive of 40 Days for Life, told BBC Scotland the group could back legal action against such legislation.

“We’re prepared to do a lot, legally and peacefully,” he said

“So yes, we would be prepared to take the appropriate steps, and I am telling you, there are many allies with us on this.

“They don’t agree with us on abortion but there are many people in organisations throughout the UK that think it’s absolutely shameful that we’re being targeted.”

Ms Sturgeon however spoke of her desire to ensure the Bill is “legally robust and hopefully legally watertight”.

She added that while it may be “frustrating” for those who want to see action taken more quickly, “we need to make sure we get it right”.