The City of Edinburgh Council has backed a move to block offers of help for women contemplating abortion and prevent prayer near abortion centres – just two years after rejecting the last attempt.
Following a new small petition submitted by pro-abortion activists, Edinburgh Council is seeking to introduce a ‘buffer zone’ around the entrance to an abortion referral centre in the city.
However, the council does not have the power to enforce its decision and so is petitioning the Scottish Government to change the law, which could see councils across the country following suit.
Pro-life campaigners have criticised the latest move, saying there is no evidence that the zones are either “necessary or proportionate”, and that they would constitute a breach of human rights.
Margaret Akers, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “Recent attempts to ban pro-life vigils outside abortion providers in Scotland are unjustified. Not only would such a ban undermine freedom of speech, but it would fail women as well.”
She added: “Every year hundreds of women decide not to have an abortion because they encounter a pro-life counsellor outside an abortion clinic.”
Campaigner Paul Atkin pointed out that the Council had broken its own rules by accepting the pro-abortion petition, which he said contains “‘false and defamatory’ information”.
The petition claims women are routinely harassed near the clinic, but Atkin said the claims “are unsupported by plausible, reliable evidence and they are contradicted and disproved by the evidence from NHS Lothian, Police Scotland and council findings”.
He added that Police Scotland has no records of any incidents or arrests at the clinic over a three year period.
In 2019, the Council, along with NHS Lothian and Police Scotland, considered creating ‘censorship zones’ which would have prohibited “prayer, information and conversations” outside abortion clinics in the capital.
But a report by the Council at the time stated that there was no evidence that pro-life supporters were causing “unnecessary distress”.
The report, presented to the Edinburgh South East Locality Committee, concluded that it did not need to “enact any police measures”.
In 2019, free speech group the Manifesto Club labelled the introduction of a ‘buffer zone’ around an abortion centre in London “a dreadful decision for freedom of speech”.