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SNP MSP criticised for saying clinics ‘push abortion’

The SNP MSP made the comment on Twitter (Katie Collins/PA)
The SNP MSP made the comment on Twitter (Katie Collins/PA)

An SNP MSP has drawn criticism for saying clinics “push abortion without laying out the pros and cons”.

John Mason, who represents Glasgow Shettleston, has been criticised in recent weeks for his defence of anti-abortion “vigils” that have sprung up at Glasgow hospitals.

In an email to campaign group Back Off Scotland, which seeks to implement buffer zones around abortion providers to push such vigils further away from patients, Mr Mason said he had attended one of the events to speak to the people there, and went on to say he believed abortion was “seldom essential or vital”.

At some of the vigils, activists can be seen holding signs saying “women do regret abortion”, among other slogans.

On Saturday, Mr Mason, while engaging on Twitter around the subject, said: “Surely these signs are very gentle and offering help?

“I do not see anything hateful or harassing about these signs.”

When asked if he believed the women seeking an abortion should be asked how they feel, he added: “Yes absolutely.

“That is the key.

“But the concern is that the clinics are not always asking the women how they feel.

“Some clinics seem to be pushing abortion without laying out the pros and cons.”

The issue has come to the fore in recent months, resulting in Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay seeking to legislate at Holyrood for buffer zones, as well as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and women’s health minister Maree Todd being urged to act.

The First Minister has repeatedly condemned the vigils, urging protesters instead to come to parliament to voice their opposition to abortion, and has set up a working group to assess the legal viability of buffer zones.

Lucy Grieve, the co-founder and director of Back Off Scotland, said: “John Mason’s false claims are incredibly dangerous and ignorant.

“This is the same elected official that admitted attending anti-choice protests at Scottish hospitals.

“He clearly has no idea what goes on during an abortion, and his comments are offensive to abortion providers and their patients.”

Scottish Labour Deputy leader Jackie Baillie went on to describe the comments from Mr Mason as “baseless”.

“This is an insult to all the women who’ve had to make this difficult decision and all the hardworking NHS staff who’ve supported them through it,” she said.

“Women have a right to access abortion, and they should be able to do so without harassment and intimidation.

“Nicola Sturgeon has given plenty of warm words on this but no action, it is time for her to show the leadership needed and introduce buffer zones, as well as stopping her MSPs spreading damaging falsehoods.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “John Mason’s ridiculous assertions betray the fact that he doesn’t really have a clue what some people are going through.

“Women should be able to access these services without harassment.

“The Scottish Government needs to get on with introducing buffer zones. The right place for protest is outside parliament, not a medical facility.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Greens added: “Everyone has the right to access healthcare unimpeded and free of harassment or intimidation.

“They don’t need to consult John Mason first.

“That’s why Scottish Greens are bringing a Bill to the Scottish Parliament that will create buffer zones around abortion clinics nationwide, and allow people to access services safely.”