Harassment when accessing abortion care due to protests: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

Please provide, in relation to women feeling harassed when accessing abortion care due to protests or vigils:

1) all reports of women feeling harassed and 2) all incidents where actual harassment took place.

Can you provide information relating to reports / incidents in Scotland only and for full details of each including the date and location.

The above refers to calendar years 2020 (full year) and 2021 (up to 30 June 2021).


See below the information you requested, which is included at Annex A.

The Scottish Government wouldn’t necessarily hold the information you have requested as reports of women feeling harassed when accessing abortion care would not necessarily be made to the Scottish Government and this is not information we actively collect. Other organisations, such as NHS Boards, Local Authorities and Police Scotland may hold more information of this nature.

In relation to part two of your request, whilst the Scottish Government receives data from Police Scotland for the production of the National Statistics on Recorded Crime, which is a simple count of the  number of crimes and offences for each local authority which the police have recorded, we do not have any specific information as to the nature of any individual crime including where they were committed.

The action in the Women’s Health Plan in relation to women feeling harassed when accessing abortion care due to protests or vigils was recommended by the Women’s Health Group Sub-Group on Sexual Health, Contraception, Abortion and Pre-pregnancy Care. The Women’s Health Group sub-groups included experts from a range of specialties in the public and third sectors who have experience of working on women’s health related issues. Based on their experience, the sub-groups made recommendations and Ministers were content to accept their recommendation on this matter.

Annex A

Extract from briefing note provided by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service on its Back Off campaign (other examples given were pre-2020 so have not been included). 

Some of the responses we have received from Scotland include:
“While walking with my baby in the pram, I passed one protester standing on the pavement outside centre. She tried to hand me a leaflet which clearly had anti-abortion messaging… I spoke to her about what she was doing… She looked into my baby’s pram and said ‘but there’s a reason you didn’t want to murder your own baby’. I walked away and she shouted after me ‘You are a hypocrite. You knew she was a baby and you knew she was in your womb. Would you kill her too?’ Chalmers Centre, Edinburgh, February 2020

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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