I'VE never had an abortion, I may never need one, and neither may you. We cannot allow our personal proximity to an issue to define our interest in its understanding, so I’ve spent this week talking to people who know a lot more about this topic than me in order to better understand the situation surrounding safe access to abortion in Scotland.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Dr Greg Irwin, part of a team of healthcare professionals in Glasgow providing essential reproductive medicine including abortions, said that after having finished 40 days of continuous protest outside his place of work during the period of lent, anti-abortion protestors still represent an alarming presence to his staff and patients.

“I want to apologise for the stress this harassment is causing to our patients, and assure them that as soon as they enter the hospital, they will be treated with the respect, dignity and high-quality healthcare they deserve.”

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Dr Irwin also highlighted that due to the positioning of the protests, patients are unable to access the paths to the hospital on foot, or the bus stop closest to the hospital uninterrupted, a disruption most acutely affecting staff and patients who cannot afford or do not have access to their own vehicles.

I have the utmost respect for people of faith, and who adhere to the rules of their religion, however I do not agree that these rules should be imposed upon others.

Your religion can inspire you to do, say and act how you choose, however it should not be used to compel others to act against their will. There are people of all faiths and ideologies who support the right to choose what other people do with their own body, and even plenty who stand shoulder to shoulder with people accessing reproductive healthcare.

It would be a mistake to tar each and every one of them with the same brush of intolerance, and I would implore everyone to understand that faith and respect are not mutually exclusive.

Lucy Grieve, the co-founder of Back-off Scotland, a charity campaigning for safe access to abortions, says: “Accessing healthcare should be a private process – and people should not be expected to cross ideological battle lines to access something so fundamental.

"Introducing buffer zones will de-politicise our healthcare facilities, it’s crucial that we stand up to the political ideology of anti-abortionists who are trying to permeate our healthcare system and traumatise patients, staff, and members of the wider community.”

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I could tell stories which continue to emerge of children raped and forced to carry pregnancies their bodies and minds cannot cope with, the retraumatisation of survivors of sexual violence and the ways in which for many people, unwanted pregnancy often represents further violation, people mourning the loss of non-viable pregnancies, making the choice to save their own life.

I could appeal to pity, humanity, empathy, but I shouldn't have to so people stay out of the business and bodies of those with whom you have no business meddling.

They know it’s wrong and they know the distress and harm that they are causing. Pregnancy can be magical, wonderful, the fulfilment of dreams and hopes for wanted children.

It can also be incredibly traumatic, life-threatening and if forced upon someone can represent mental and physical torture the likes of which would be highly illegal and entirely unethical in any other context.

Gillian Mackay, an MSP who put forward the proposal for a Bill to introduce safe access zones around healthcare settings that provide abortion services, said, "The protests and so-called 'vigils' we have seen have been utterly shameful. Nobody should be harassed, abused or obstructed when accessing healthcare.

"Abortion rights are human rights and we must protect them. People from all over Scotland have shared deeply personal and heart-breaking stories about the intimidation they have experienced. Nobody should have to endure that.”

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That we continue to allow groups which regularly number over 100 people to line the street with signs designed to scare or distress people, many of whom are already in a state of high anxiety, is awful.

People accessing all kinds of vital health services are forced to walk the gauntlet, creating additional unnecessary stress.

One patient described this harrowing experience, saying, “Protestors are outside QUEH. I’m taking my child in who is highly unwell. I've just miscarried 4 days ago and now sobbing in my car. I was pregnant last week and this week I lost the pregnancy, now my child is ill with a chest infection which may actually be meningitis.

"The protestors are standing right across from the road running down the front of A&E. I haven’t been able to get out the car for 10 minutes for crying.”

In an ideal world nobody would get pregnant when they don't want to and there wouldn't be any need to terminate a pregnancy.

If anyone reading this does have a desperate urge to prevent abortions, there are ways to go about helping to lower rates of unwanted pregnancy that do not involve upsetting patients outside hospital or imposing your beliefs on others.

Working to prevent sexual violence, supporting survivors, educating people about consent and their right to bodily autonomy, fighting for more affordable childcare healthcare, and housing, helping to end the cycle of poverty which precludes many families from being able to financially afford children, and advocating for robust and comprehensive sex education, which covers multiple methods of contraception (not just abstinence), all combine to help equip people to make the best possible decisions for themselves and their families, and have proven incredibly effective in reducing both sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.

I often hear people pour their hearts out, showing incredible strength, bravery and vulnerability recounting events which necessitated the termination of a pregnancy.

People shouldn't need to expose gaping wounds of trauma to be taken seriously, or provide evidence that they were the right kind of person, in the right kind of circumstance, enduring the right amount of damage to earn the right to determine what happens to their own body.

Someone doesn't need to be a rape survivor, or a child, or at risk of death before they can make the choice to terminate a pregnancy; agency is not earned through suffering and pain is not a prerequisite for bodily autonomy.

You are obviously allowed to form and hold your own opinions about abortion, and make your own decisions accordingly.

All doctors, patients and those supporting them want is for the freedom and safety to do the same.