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Church hits back at Scottish government official over abortion prayer vigil comments

by Kelly Valencia
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The Scottish government's chief legal officer has come under fire after saying that prayer vigils outside abortion clinics could be 'far more damaging' than verbal protest.

Addressing the UK's Supreme Court about abortion clinics in Northern Ireland, Dorothy Bain KC said she believed "standing in judgment" may be "just as psychologically damaging" for women.

She was making the case for prayer vigils to be excluded from so-called 'buffer zones' outside abortion clinics - areas where certain types of activity are banned such as protesting or handing out leaflets. 

Now, the Scottish Catholic Church has labelled Mrs Bain's remarks as "absurd and alarming."

Peter Kearny, spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland, told Premier they have condemned her comments "in defence of religious freedom and practice." 

"In defence [of] the right of all of us to be able to express and offer our opinion on religious belief, and more importantly, religious practice. 

"For people to be told they can't stand silently in prayer, in this case, outside an abortion clinic or a hospital that carries out abortions is really, frankly, chilling and extremely worrying."

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland are considering the creation of buffer zones around abortion clinics. 

In Scotland, Green MSP Gillian Mackay proposed a bill to create a 150-metres zone earlier this year. 

During its consultation phase, the bill received 12,000 responses which are currently being analysed before putting it before parliament. 

Kearny believes the campaign to introduce buffer zones will continue as there's support in the Scottish parliament. 

"The job really, I think, for all churches, and not just for Christians, but for people of all religious beliefs is to raise concerns about the destruction of, what I would describe as the 'sledge hammer', that is being taken to our civil liberties."

"This is something that is part of the fabric of our society and one of our fundamental rights and it would be appalling if it was to be removed," Kearny continued. 

Lucy Grieve, co-founder of Back Off Scotland, the campaign group pressing for buffer zones, told The Times the bill would only restrict protest in the immediate area of abortion facilities, and "in no way [suggests] a ban on protest anywhere else."


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