Tory MSP Murdo Fraser refuses to vote for abortion clinic buffer zones bill despite party pressure

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser
Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser -Credit:Getty Images

A Tory MSP who has championed women’s sex based rights declined to vote for a bill clamping down on intimidation outside abortion clinics.

Murdo Fraser is said to have serious concerns about the impact of the legislation on religious freedom.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay’s bill would prevent any protests taking place within 200m of clinics offering abortion services.

It followed anti-abortion activists gathering outside facilities in the hope pregnant women changing their minds.

MSPs voted by 123 votes to 1 to approve the general principles of the bill at Holyrood on Tuesday.

One noticeable absence was Fraser, who represents Mid Scotland and Fife for the Conservatives.

He has been a prominent voice in the debate on trans rights and was opposed to the gender reform legislation passed by Holyrood.

He wrote at the time: “Taking account of all the concerns that have been raised with me, I will be voting AGAINST.”

Separately, he tweeted in response to the cancellation of a film on gender:

“It’s appalling that in the birthplace of The Enlightenment, women-haters are allowed to harass, intimidate & close down free speech. Time for ⁦ @EdinburghUni ⁩ & ⁦ @PoliceScotland ⁩ to step up and unequivocally support women’s rights.”

In another tweet, he wrote: “Why is that every time women assemble to defend their rights, they are met by a group of angry masked men trying to intimidate and silence them?”

A Tory source said Fraser supports a ban on demonstrations outside medical clinics, but has concerns about criminalising silent prayer.

The insider said his support for the bill is dependent on this matter being clarified before the final parliamentary stage.

Tory MSPs were whipped to vote in favour of the bill.

Fraser is a long-standing MSP considered to be on the Right of the Tory group at Holyrood.

He backed 44-day Prime Minister Liz Truss during the last Tory leadership.

Mackay said: “I am proud that my bill has received such overwhelming support, including from many of Mr Fraser’s Conservative colleagues.

“Religious freedom is important, and there is nothing in the Bill that undermines it. What it does is provide reassurance and support to people who are being targeted and harassed by protesters outside hospitals and other medical services.

“We all have the right to privacy, but far too many women have had to face a gauntlet of intimidation and abuse while accessing healthcare that they are entitled to.

“I hope that Murdo Fraser will reflect on the impact that these protests are having, and will join the dozens of Conservative MSPs who have taken a stand and supported my bill."

The Tories have been contacted.

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