A reproductive rights rally will be held outside the American consulate in Edinburgh on Saturday after it emerged the US Supreme Court voted to strike down the Roe v. Wade decision.
Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court in 1973 which legalised abortion in the United States. If it was overturned it could restrict access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare across America.
Tensions have also been rising in Scotland in the wake of the leak as medical clinics which offer abortions have been targeted by controversial pro-life protesters and prompted the First Minister to offer to chair an emergency summit on reproductive rights.
The rally, which will take place at 2pm on Saturday at Regent Terrace in the capital, will involve speeches from Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay, who has brought forth a member’s bill on protest-free buffer zones outside clinics to Holyrood, and Abortion Rights Scotland.
It has been organised individually by Dr Lindsay Jaacks and is expected that around 100 people will show up.
Dr Jaacks said the intention of the rally was to provide an opportunity for people from the pro-choice community to gather to speak about the issue and widen and strengthen the coalition in support of access to safe, legal, free and local abortion in Scotland.
She said: “In sharing facts with colleagues in my wider network I’ve realized that many people are not aware of the harassment people are facing in trying to access reproductive healthcare services.
“Many groups will be in attendance at the rally and the floor will also be open to anyone representing an organization or from the community to speak out about their experiences or work in this area.
“My hope is that it will be an inclusive space where people like myself – an American absolutely distraught about the situation in the US – and many more can come together for comfort, solidarity and action to ensure these rights are protected and expanded in Scotland.”
On Thursday, the SNP’s women’s health minister Maree Todd confirmed that telemedical abortion care, in which women have a video consultation before medicine is delivered to their home, would become permanent following calls from Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon and pro-choice campaigners.
Telemedical abortions were introduced during the coronavirus pandemic to limit the number of patients attending clinics and while the procedure had been made permanent in England and Wales previously.
The issue of enforcing protest-free buffer zones outside medical facilities which offer abortions remains.
The latest demonstration was on Wednesday outside Glasgow’s Sandyford sexual health clinic, where two anti-abortion activists were seen to be shouting loudly outside of the building.
Speaking after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Greens representative Mackay said the protest was the latest example of an increasing problem of intimidation outside abortion clinics.
She said: “Not only do these protests intimidate many of the people who use these services, I understand they also forced the clinic to close particular rooms on one side of the building due to the amplification system the protesters were using.
“My buffer zones member’s bill will restrict protest outside healthcare settings. It is time we ensured that everyone who needs to access abortion services can do so free from intimidation and harassment.”
Speaking about the rally, she said: “I offer solidarity to those in the USA who are facing the prospect of being stripped of the right to bodily autonomy. It is vital that we stand together against this attack on our fundamental rights, whether at home or abroad.”
Speaking about the rally, a spokesperson for Back Off Scotland, a pro-choice group campaigning for buffer zones, said: “We were really shocked to hear about the US Supreme Court leak last week, but are grateful to be able to come together as a pro-choice community to support each other and pay tribute to Gillian Mackay MSP who is soon to be launching the consultation on her buffer zone bill.
“We fully back Gillian, and are delighted to be working with her and a number of other feminist organisations to ensure that Scotland is progressive when it comes to reproductive rights, and to show solidarity with our siblings in the US.”