FM convening summit on protecting women's access to health care

A number of anti-abortion demonstrations have taken place.

Abortion clinic buffer zone laws move closer at Nicola Sturgeon summit on protecting health care access STV News
There will be representatives from local government, Police Scotland, the NHS and campaigners, as well as third sector organisations.

Legal buffer zones around medical clinics could be enshrined in law at a summit on protecting abortion care.

Nicola Sturgeon is convening the meeting aimed at ensuring women can access health services without fear, harassment or intimidation.

The First Minister said the forum in Edinburgh would be an “important opportunity” to reaffirm women’s autonomy and right to choose.

It brings together representatives from local government, Police Scotland, the NHS and campaigners, as well as third sector organisations.

There is also representation from across the parties at Holyrood.

The summit is seeking to establish what can be done to improve access to abortion services, as well as identifying immediate actions that can be taken to protect women from being deterred from getting the care they require outside hospital hospitals and sexual health clinics.

It comes in the wake of a number of anti-abortion demonstrations taking place in Scotland.

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There are plans to provide effective legislation to establish abortion buffer zones which would aim to provide a safe access zone for those seeking to access abortion clinics and healthcare settings.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Sturgeon acknowledged the decision in the US to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling in outlining the importance of protecting women’s rights.

The SNP leader set out the key focus of the summit in establishing effective buffer zones.

“This summit is an important opportunity to reaffirm women’s autonomy and right to choose,” she said.

“It comes at a particularly important time given the overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States.

“The summit will consider in general terms what needs to be done to improve access to abortion services, including second trimester abortions, in Scotland.

“However, its main and most immediate focus will be on mechanisms to establish effective buffer zones.

“It starts from the clear view that women must be able to access health care, including abortion services, free of harassment or intimidation.”

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The First Minister described the current situation where women are being encountered by protesters outside healthcare settings as “unacceptable”.

“The proper focus for anyone protesting abortion should be Parliament and lawmakers – not hospitals or sexual health clinics,” she said.

“Gatherings of this kind create additional stress for anyone using these facilities, for any purpose, and for those who work in them. But for women accessing abortion services, the upset, distress and fear that they cause can be profound.

“At what is already a very stressful time, women are being forced to see or make their way past these groups on the way in.

“And once they’re inside, on top of everything else, there’s the knowledge that they may have to see them again on the way out.

“In my view, the current situation is unacceptable, and it’s one which we must address as a matter of urgency. I am determined that we do so.

“There are issues that we need to solve to establish buffer zones through legislation but if we work together in a spirit of solidarity, I am confident we can find a way.”