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by Kirsteen Paterson
14 March 2024
Humza Yousaf tells John Mason to 'listen to women' on abortion clinic 'harassment'

John Mason MSP | Alamy

Humza Yousaf tells John Mason to 'listen to women' on abortion clinic 'harassment'

First Minister Humza Yousaf has rejected claims from one of his own MSPs that steps to bar religious protests outside abortion clinics are an "overreaction".

Yousaf told SNP MSP John Mason: "I'm a religious person myself, I pray.

"You can pray anywhere in the world, for whatever you want. Why you have to go to an abortion service where women feel harassed and intimidated, I have to say I do not understand."

At First Minister's Questions, Green MSP Gillian Mackay asked if Yousaf agreed that "safe access zones must be the first step" in advancing abortion rights in Scotland.

The question follows the introduction of her members bill aimed at introducting 200-metre buffer zones outside clinics to prevent protests and vigils by groups opposed to medical terminations.

Mason, who has joined prayer meetings near clinics, said "no one is being harassed" at such vigils or protests, adding: "It is largely a small group of elderly religious people standing at these facilities.

"Does [Yousaf] not think that we are slightly overreacting with the legislation?"

Yousaf said it is "important to listen to the voices of women": "Women tell us, they have given very powerful evidence and testimony, that whatever John Mason's view may be, they feel that harm is being done. 

"They do feel harassed, they do feel intimidation."

Yousaf said he would "encourage" Mason not to "discard that evidence", adding: "I believe that legislation that Gillian Mackay is bringing forward is one that should have the support of this whole parliament. We will certainly be supporting it from the Scottish Government.

"And I would say once again to John Mason that it is so crucial, as opposed to men perhaps imposing their view on what the impacts and effects of protests are to women, that John Mason would do well to listen to the voices of women and clinicians and staff at abortion services."

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