ANTI-ABORTION campaigners have begun 40 days of protests across Scotland and have been pictured targetting a hospital in Glasgow.

Supporters of the international 40 Days for Life campaign gathered outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) on Wednesday morning holding signs containing anti-abortion messaging.

The organisation aims to “end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses”.

They expected to protest outside of the Glasgow hospital every day for the next 40 days, encompassing almost the entirety of Lent, which runs from February 22 until April 6.

Their actions were condemned by Greg Irwin, a consultant paediatric radiologist at the Royal Hospital for Children, which shares a campus with the maternity hospital. 

The National: Signs held by anti-abortion protesters in GlasgowSigns held by anti-abortion protesters in Glasgow (Image: Gordon Terris)

He said: "We've got protesters outside the hospital for the next 40 days, 12 hours a day, causing harassment and intimidation of women seeking abortion healthcare. 

"It's an incredibly unkind thing to be doing. These people tell you that they are just Christians having a prayer vigil. 

"[But] they can have their prayer vigil anywhere they like, they do not need to do it right at the gates of the hospital. 

"The reason they are doing it here is because they know the effect they are having."

The group is also expected to appear outside of other hospitals around Scotland.

The campaign initially started in Texas but has since migrated into an international movement.

Campaign group Back Off Scotland have called on the Scottish Government to implement protest buffer zones around abortion service providers to stop the protests.

They say that the actions of 40 Days for Life amount to harassment and have negative impacts on people using the services.

Alice Murray, a campaign coordinator for Back Off Scotland, told The National: “It’s really concerning to see yet another 40 Days for Life protest starting again outside clinics across Scotland.

“After spending the past two years collecting evidence from patients and bystanders we know the devastating impact this has on people – nobody should have their choices questioned when accessing abortion care.

“Anti-choice protesters will tell you they are there to protect women but these intimidating groups do the absolute opposite.

“We really hope that with the implementation of the safe access zones bill this will be the last year that clinic users and staff have to endure this.”

The National:

Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay launched a consultation on the Proposed Abortion Services Safe Access Zones (Scotland) Bill last year.

If implemented, the bill would introduce 150-metre safe access zones around sites which provide abortion care and make it unlawful to attempt to influence people from accessing or providing that care within the zone.

Mackay said that the next 40 days would be a “gauntlet of harassment”.

“These protests are a disgraceful attempt to intimidate people out of accessing healthcare," she added. 

“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.

“How can we talk about rights and equality when people are being intimidated like this?

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She added: “Abortion rights are human rights. Yet, all over our country, far too many people are having to manoeuvre their way past groups of campaigners.

“My consultation received over 12,000 responses, which shows the depth of feeling. My bill has also received the support of the Scottish Government.

"Some of the stories that people have shared with me have been really harrowing and- shocking, and have underlined why this bill is so vital.

“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.”

The anti-abortion protesters also appeared to have covered up pro-choice posters that were attached to a fence outside of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, a move that campaigner Gemma Clark said exposed their “hypocrisy on free speech”.

A petition started by Clark to develop more educational resources for schools on abortion was heard by Holyrood’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee today.

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“There’s currently one Powerpoint on abortion that’s used in schools,” Clark told The National.

“And it’s okay but I don’t think it says enough," she added. 

“So, I’m asking for the government to amend it to include things such as the debunking of myths and for young people to know that abortion really is healthcare.

“It can be lifesaving healthcare, especially when it comes to medical emergencies like ectopic pregnancies or a miscarriage that’s gone septic. A lot of people don’t understand that.”

Last year, The Herald revealed that an anti-abortion group had carried out dozens of visits to Scottish schools over the past five years.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) - which is against the implementation of buffer zones and same-sex marriage – was known to have visited schools in at least eight of Scotland’s council areas.

Clark added: “If anti-choice groups have access to schools I think it’s really important that children at least get accurate information to debunk the myths that they might be exposed to.”

The committee decided that Clark’s petition would progress to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny.