Sturgeon 'considering carefully' ruling on abortion clinic buffer zones

Nicola Sturgeon said she was 'very pleased' by Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling in support of buffer zones in Northern Ireland.

Scottish Government ‘considering very carefully’ Supreme Court ruling on buffer zones at abortion clinics STV News

The Scottish Government are “considering very carefully” a Supreme Court ruling to allow buffer zones outside abortion clinics in Northern Ireland, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

The ruling, made on Wednesday, supported the legality of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Northern Ireland Bill, which was passed by the Northern Irish Assembly in March.

Sturgeon welcomed the ruling and said she was “very pleased” that the Supreme Court has “protected the rights of women to access abortion services without fear of harassment or intimidation in Northern Ireland”.

During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay described the unanimous ruling as “very welcome” and said it gives a “clear way forward for safe access zones here in Scotland”.

Mackay’s proposed Abortion Services Safe Access Zones Bill in Scotland, which is currently making its way through Holyrood, would see similar protection applied to medical buildings.

It has received cross-party support and the backing of campaign groups including Back Off Scotland, who advocate for protections for those seeking abortion facilities.

In response to Mackay during FMQs, Sturgeon said her government are “considering very carefully” the detail of the judgement will work with Mackay to “progress quickly the next steps for taking her Bill forward”.

She added: “We are absolutely committed to supporting Gillian Mackay with the development of a Bill to safeguard access for women in Scotland to access healthcare facilities that provide abortion services and do to so without fear, harassment or intimidation.”

Buffer zones create legal restrictions on the right to protest outside medical centres and make it illegal for anti-abortion activists to stage demonstrations within a 100m vicinity of clinics.

The Northern Irish Bill will implement a maximum penalty of a £500 fine on protesters who enter safe access zones, or buffer zones.

Of the restrictions, the Supreme Court stated: “They are required to protect the rights of women seeking treatment or advice, and are also in the interests of the wider community, including other patients and staff of clinics and hospitals.”

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