Scottish Government to begin process of introducing ‘buffer zones’ outside abortion clinics

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In a bid to tackle anti-abortion protestors from forcibly sharing their rhetoric with pregnant people outside abortion clinics - buffer zones will be introduced by the Scottish Government.

Buffer zones outside abortion clinics should be rolled out as soon as possible to prevent women being harassed, Glasgow councillors have said.

There was cross-party support for a motion which called on the Scottish Government to start the process of introducing legislation. It comes after a Supreme Court ruling to allow buffer zones, which create restrictions on protesting, outside abortion clinics in Northern Ireland last week.

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Councillor Chris Cunningham, Glasgow’s health convener, who presented the motion, said he believed Scotland ‘need wait no longer’.

He continued:“It is not my purpose here to go over again the arguments in favour of buffer zones,” he said. “We have dealt with this extensively in the past and the motion itself references the council’s commitment to the principle in 2018.

“In the words of the motion, those who seek to have the law on abortion changed are entitled to their views and to campaign for such a change, but that should not extend to harassing individual women attending hospitals or clinics.

“Women are entitled to seek advice and medical assistance in regard to their pregnancy.”

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Councillor Cunningham, SNP, added the question had been how buffer zones could be introduced legally but that had now been answered by the UK Supreme Court. “That decision is truly a landmark one and it clears the way for legislation elsewhere in the UK to establish such zones,” he said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed the Supreme Court ruling and said the Scottish Government is considering it ‘very carefully’. Green MSP Gillian Mackay has proposed a buffer zone bill in Scotland, and the Scottish Government has said it will support her.

Councillor Eva Murray, Labour, said: “It has been four and a half years since this chamber first joined together to support the introduction of buffer zones.

“We could see then that this issue was escalating, as those seeking to access abortion services, as well as workers, were being intimidated when entering or leaving a facility.

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Anti-abortion protesters outside the Sandyford Clinic on Wednesday (Photo: Provided by Back Off Scotland).Anti-abortion protesters outside the Sandyford Clinic on Wednesday (Photo: Provided by Back Off Scotland).
Anti-abortion protesters outside the Sandyford Clinic on Wednesday (Photo: Provided by Back Off Scotland).

“Nobody should be put in that position, nobody has the right to prevent someone who is deciding to access abortion facilities from accessing them.”

She added the Supreme Court decision was “clear in setting out that devolved parliaments do have the power to introduce buffer zone legislation”.

Councillor Holly Bruce, Greens, said the ruling was a “huge win for women and pregnant people’s rights”.

“Scotland can now be confident in creating a robust law,” she added.

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