An anti-abortion group has begun a 40-day campaign outside Scottish clinics. 

Texas-based 40 Days for Life has kicked off what they deem "prayer vigils" outside both hospitals and clinics, which are set to last until November 6.

However, concerns have been raised that the action will result in six weeks of "intimidation" for those using the many services offered by the sexual health clinics. 

It is understood the protests will be staged outside healthcare facilities across all of Scotland's biggest cities, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. 

The first day of the demonstration also coincides with International Safe Abortion Day, an annual day which spotlights the need for accessible, safe and legal abortion.

Consultation for legislation which would introduce 150-metre buffer zones around medical facilities recently ended with 12,000 contributions. 

The Scottish Greens health spokesperson Gillian Mackay MSP, who introduced the private member's bill, said the 40-days of demonstrations are an "appalling attempt to scare people out of accessing the healthcare they are entitled to".

She said: "It will be 40 days of intimidation, and it has no place in a modern and progressive Scotland.

"The Bill that I am introducing will stop these protests for good. 

“It is shameful that they have chosen to launch this latest campaign of harassment on International Safe Abortion Day, a day which exists to promote safe and legal access to reproductive health."

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One of the demonstrations is set to take place outside Chalmers Centre in Edinburgh. 

The health board reassured patients that it will strive to minimise disruption. 

A spokesperson for NHS Lothian said: "Chalmers provides vital sexual health services for a range of patients on matters such as: contraception; sexually transmitted infections; HIV testing, care and prevention; pregnancy; menopause; and support to victims of sexual assault.

"We are disappointed to hear of the planned anti-abortion demonstration near the premises, which could have the effect of intimidating our staff and people that need support from our services.

"We would like to reassure our patients that we remain resolute in providing a high standard of safe and legal care and will do all we can to minimise disruption."

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said staff will be available to provide additional support for patients attending appointments over the next six weeks. 

A spokesperson said: "While we recognise the public’s right to protest, as a healthcare provider we believe our all our patients should be free to attend for treatment and our staff should be able to deliver care without fear or intimidation.

"All of our clinics will continue to operate as normal and our staff are on hand to provide any additional support as required to ensure patients are reassured and able to attend appointments.”  

Ms Mackay added that healthcare staff at these clinics have also stated the protests have a "terrible impact" on both themselves and others. 

The legislation for safe access zones has received the support of the Scottish Government, as well as the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs. 

"Some of the campaigners we have seen have used graphic banners and loudspeakers," the MSP added. "The service users and staff I have spoken to have told me about the terrible impact that these protests have had on them and others.

“There is still vital work that must be done in Scotland and around the world to ensure that people can access safe abortions. 

“When it comes to human rights, we can’t stand still. As the appalling decision to rollback reproductive rights in the US shows, our progress can be fragile. That is why we must do everything we can to protect and advance it."

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf appealed for the protesters to make their thoughts known outside the Scottish Parliament rather than health clinics

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also spoke about the “deeply distressing” impact these activities can have.

Speaking to BBC Scotland’s Disclosure programme, she said: “The only personal experience I can bring to bear on this is you know, I’ve spoken about this publicly, when I had a miscarriage.

“Being in a hospital around that, and one of the most upsetting and traumatic experiences of my life, trying to imagine how much more upsetting that would be, have been, had I had to go in or leave that hospital and walk past images of foetuses on placards.

“That’s the only personal experience I can bring to bear but that personal experience gives me some insight into how deeply distressing that must be for not just women accessing abortion services, but women accessing a whole range of different services.”

Ms Sturgeon said she was “concerned” but not surprised that an American-based group is now targeting Scotland in its activities.

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “Women should be able to access timely abortion care without the fear of harassment or intimidation and we are committed to national legislation, agreeing to support Gillian Mackay MSP with the development and drafting on her Member’s Bill on Safe Access Zones.

“People have a right to protest in a democracy, however, no one has the right to intimidate or impede women's right to access healthcare. 

"The Scottish Government believes protests should be held in a more appropriate place, such as outside parliament.”

A spokesperson for the 40 Days for Life demonstration in Edinburgh said: 'The 40 days for Life 'vigil will take place from 28th September until 6th November outside Chalmers Health Centre, Edinburgh. we will be praying for an end to abortion We want women to know that there is more than one option and they don't have to end the life of their child. We would like to connect women with unexpected pregnancies to support and women with post-abortion trauma to recovery."