BY Peter Diamond | March 22 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Council rejects abortion ‘buffer zones’ after NHS reps say there is no evidence vigils cause distress

Pro-life vigils are to continue in Scotland’s capital after a council body set up to consider ‘buffer zones’ heard there was no evidence to suggest the vigils cause ‘unnecessary distress.’

Edinburgh City Council’s was the first council in ­Scotland to consider proposals to ban peaceful pro-life vigils.

A joint working party involving City of Edinburgh Council, NHS Lothian and Police Scotland had considered the establishment of a zone which would have prohibited prayer, information and conversations taking place in proscribed areas around local abortion facilities.

A report on the working party’s findings, presented to the Edinburgh South East Locality Committee on Monday March 18, did not recommend using police powers to ban vigils.

Two NHS officials from the facilities where vigils take place told the council that ‘as things currently stood there was no overwhelming evidence to suggest the actions were causing unnecessary distress and as such did not feel the necessity to enact any police measures.’

The ‘silent vigils’ outside Edinburgh Royal Infirmary are ‘often not noticed,’ the council report on the working party evidence states.

The report states that the council will revisit buffer zone proposals ‘should the situation increase in intensity.’

The decision has been ­welcomed by Michael ­Robinson, communications director for SPUC (Scotland).

“Peaceful pro-life vigils offer practical, emotional and financial support to vulnerable women who might otherwise be forced into an abortion they do not want,” he said. “This is a significant victory for common sense, for free speech and above all for the many vulnerable women who choose to have their babies with assistance from pro-life vigils.”

Edinburgh mum Patricia Maclennan, who organises peaceful vigils in the city, told SPUC: “We are so grateful to the council and the NHS for respecting our right to freely pray. We have been offering support, love and compassion for more than eleven years and in that time, we have never been anything put peaceful and respectful in our behaviour.”

A spokesperson for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “Following concerns about regular vigils outside the Chalmers Centre, options for a buffer zone have been explored. These were discussed by the South East Locality Committee on Monday and it was agreed that the situation would be ­monitored and feedback would be collected as we consider next steps.”

The decision will likely be seen as a test case for the treatment of vigils in Scotland, where the situation differs from England and Wales.

Scotland does not have dedicated abortion clinics, and the Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) used to ban vigils in Ealing, and, recently, Twickenham, are not available. The Ealing decision is being challenged in court and Richmond has still not enacted it decision.

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