Glasgow council urged to bring in buffer zones outside abortion clinics

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Glasgow City Council is facing calls to use bylaws to bring in buffer zones outside abortion clinics to keep protestors away.

Protestors have been outside the Sandyford clinic and Queen Elizabeth hospital in Glasgow recently- leading to concerns women attending are feeling intimidated.

Labour MSP Carol Mochan has written to council CEO Annemarie O’Donnell challenging her to introduce a buffer zone outside the Sandyford Sexual Health Service.

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And while it is understood that legally council’s currently do not have the power to bring in such a bylaw, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently said she would back councils that did so.

Ms Mochan said she wrote to the council boss demanding “that they utilise bylaws to protect those attending the Sandyford, a clinic used by thousands for all manner of treatments, all of whom are subjected to this archaic practice.”

Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council.Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council.
Glasgow City Chambers - home of Glasgow City Council. | JC

There is confusion over whether that is possible – and previous attempts have been met with legal problems.

An SNP Glasgow spokesman said: “The SNP in Glasgow proposed a motion in favour of buffer zones around health care facilities in 2018, which received support from across the council chamber. The legal advice from COSLA, however, states unequivocally that this is not a matter that councils can introduce bylaws on.

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“There is no easy or quick fix to this issue and I hope that Carol Mochan works constructively with MSP colleagues to find a solution that means that buffer zones can be put in in place across the country.”

Scottish Greens health spokesperson MSP Gillian Mackay is to introduce a member’s bill on buffer zones. Organisation Back Off Scotland has been campaigning for the introduction of 150 metre buffer zones around clinics providing abortion services.

Commenting on Ms Mochan’s demand for the council to use bylaws, a Back Off Scotland spokesperson said: “We are aware of this but know that COSLA legal counsel states that bylaw legislation for buffer zones would be unlawful. In lieu of Gillian Mackay MSP’s Member’s Bill or governmental action, we need to explore stop gap measures. If councils can do anything to put a stop to this harassment that would be welcome, but primary legislation is the only long term answer.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has agreed to chair an emergency summit on abortion care and buffer zones.

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At First Minister’s questions recently Ms Sturgeon said she would support any local authority willing to use bylaws to put buffer zones in place.

Health minister Maree Todd has been called on to introduce zones around abortion clinics by Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon and others.

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