Abortion clinic buffer zone new laws face final vote at Holyrood

If it passes the final vote, anti-abortion protesters will not be able to gather within 200 metres of hospitals and clinics where terminations are carried out.

Abortion clinic buffer zone new laws face final vote at Holyrood PA Media

The MSP responsible for buffer zone proposals outside abortion clinics has hailed the “historic moment” as it enters its final stage in Holyrood.

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill will be debated in its final stage on Wednesday afternoon, with 11 amendments under consideration.

If it passes the final vote, anti-abortion protesters will not be able to gather within 200 metres of hospitals and clinics where terminations are carried out.

Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay, who put forward the plans as a Member’s Bill, said MSPs had a “duty” to back the proposals to protect women.

Amendments to the proposals are likely to include exclusions of silent prayer from the terms, amid concerns it could infringe on freedom of religion.

In April, the Bill overwhelmingly passed its first stage by 123 votes to one, while other concerns, such as reducing the size of the buffer zones to 150 metres, were raised at stage two last month.

Ms Mackay said: “For far too long women and health care staff have been forced to run a gauntlet of intimidation, judgment and fear in order to access or deliver treatment at what can often be the most emotional of times.

“No protester and no group should be allowed to tell women what they are or are not allowed to do with their body. This should be their choice, their privacy, and their decision.

“This safeguarding is now just hours away from becoming law. I view it as my duty to ensure we bring in these protections, so that everyone can access healthcare with dignity and free of harassment. I hope that MSPs from across all parties do the same.

“My Bill seeks to protect women across Scotland today, tomorrow and for years to come.

“It will mark a historic moment for not just women’s rights, but medical workers too, who all too often find themselves at the forefront of such situation.

“It will also serve as a legacy for all those who have campaigned to bring it into law.”

A spokeswoman for Care for Scotland said: “Public debates and interactions related to abortion must be conducted with an abundance of empathy and sensitivity, recognising that both lives in a pregnancy have immense value.

“The committee process showed that pro-life people in Scotland conduct themselves with this in mind. But MSPs have heard concerns about the evidence for, and scope of, Ms Mackay’s bill.

“The police are already empowered to deal with any incidents of abuse or harassment that occur under existing, well-balanced laws. Police data shows that pro-life activities do not involve the ‘harassment’ some campaigners claim is taking place. Some have wrongly sought to other and problematise peaceful pro-life people who offer support to women.

“We regret that this legislation has seen political attention diverted away from other serious issues relating to abortion: discrimination against preborn babies with disabilities; the law being out-of-step with improvements in foetal viability; record numbers of abortions; and abortions driven by inequality including poverty. We would urge MSPs to consider the wider picture.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code