Bill to ban prayer outside abortion centres in Scotland launched

A Bill to ban peaceful protesting outside hospitals and abortion centres in Scotland has been launched at Holyrood.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay’s Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill would create 200-metre censorship zones around hospitals and other centres where abortions take place.

It would make it illegal to ‘influence’ “the decision of another person to access, provide or facilitate the provision of abortion services at the protected premises” or cause “harassment, alarm or distress” to that person.


The broad wording means those engaging in peaceful protest within the zone can face an unlimited fine. Mackay’s original proposals recommended a six-month prison sentence for a first offence, and up to two years for repeat offenders.

There is no mention of specific prohibitions against prayer in the Bill, although in other censorship zones prayer has been deemed to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”, and Mackay has cited prayer as evidence that a ban is needed.

The Bill would also criminalise pro-life activity on private property, including private residences and churches, situated within the zone that could be seen or heard by others within the zone.

Additionally, if the operator of the premises decides they would like the zone to be wider, they can apply for it to be extended “to an extent that the operator considers appropriate”.


Polling from Savanta ComRes found that only 30 per cent of Scots support the introduction of censorship zones nationwide.

Those surveyed were asked about their support for zones with a 150m radius, in line with the law in England and Wales.

Catherine Robinson, Right To Life UK spokesperson, called the Bill “a truly draconian piece of legislation that reaches into the homes of ordinary people”.

Silent prayer

Last December, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, Director of pro-life charity March for Life UK, was arrested for silently praying outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham while it was closed.

Charges were eventually dropped by the CPS, but she still faced a magistrates’ court, which cleared her of all charges.

She was arrested for the same offence later in the year, but last month West Midlands Police informed Miss Vaughan-Spruce that “there will be no further investigation” and “no further action taken” into the alleged incident.

Welcoming the police decision, she said: “This isn’t 1984, but 2023 – I should never have been arrested or investigated simply for the thoughts I held in my own mind. Silent prayer is never criminal.”

Also see:

Two arrested for breaching new NI abortion ‘buffer zones’ law

Abortion censorship zones come into force in NI

Police end investigation into pro-lifer’s silent prayer

Thousands of pro-lifers march to Parliament Square

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