THE MSP seeking to outlaw protests outside abortion clinics has said there is a “scary” level of medical misinformation in anti-abortion leaflets.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay’s Member’s Bill would create a 200-metre buffer zone outside 30 hospitals and clinics in Scotland.

The legislation has already been backed by the Scottish Government, with the bill also having cross-party support at Holyrood.

The National:

Holyrood’s Health Committee took evidence from Mackay (above) and Public Health Minister Jenni Minto about the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday.

However, some MSPs on the committee expressed concerns that it is not clear how silent prayers or silent vigils outside hospitals would be handled by the legislation.

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During her evidence session, Mackay discussed misleading medical information contained on anti-abortion leaflets.

She said: “I think the level of misinformation in some of these leaflets is quite scary.”

On the issue of silent prayer, she said police currently engage in dialogue with protesters and this would likely continue.

Police Scotland representatives had previously told the committee that they would not ask people who are standing silently what they were praying about.

Mackay also told the committee: “I accept that many of the people who participate in anti-abortion activity outside hospitals do not believe their actions make it harder for women to access healthcare – that, in fact, they believe they help women.

“Without being too blunt, those beliefs do not change the reality that some women find their activities distressing and alarming.”

The Public Health Minister said the legislation “goes no further than necessary” and does not seek to restrict other types of protest outside hospitals.

Committee member Ruth Maguire asked: “Is it possible in law to protect citizens from silent judgment?”

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The minister said: “What we’re protecting individuals in society from is the intent of causing alarm, distress and impeding access.”

She added: “Silent prayer is a form of vigil, protest that is impacting on women attending abortion clinics.”

The National: Business minister Ivan McKee has confirmed more independence papers are on the way Ivan McKee (above) said he was “struggling to see” how silent prayers could be criminalised if there is no context to show they are connected to abortions.

The minister said she would write to the committee with further details.

'This bill has never been about abortion’

In her opening remarks to the committee, Mackay said she believed that if passed, the bill would “make a real difference to the lives of women and send an unequivocal message that access to healthcare is not up for debate”.

She continued: “I know abortion is an emotive issue – in this Parliament, as in the rest of the country, there are people with diametrically opposed views. I do not expect that to change.

“However, this bill is not and never has been about abortion. It is about the right and ability of women to access the healthcare they need, free from fear that they will be met with judgement and shaming, with placards and signs, and with groups of people telling them they are wrong.”

The bill is currently at stage 1, meaning committees are currently gathering views and hearing evidence.

It is expected to enter stage 2, where a debate will take place, in May.