Scotland’s largest trade union body to back abortion buffer zones

The Scottish Trade Union Congress is set to back introduction of buffer zones for those protesting against abortion in Scotland.

Scotland’s largest trade union body STUC to back abortion buffer zones STV News

Scotland’s largest trade union body is expected to back the introduction of exclusionary zones for those protesting against abortion.

If implemented, those protesting against abortion outside hospitals or clinics would not be allowed to do so within 150 metres of the sites. 

The motion is being brought forward by the Universities and College Union (UCU).

The Scottish Trade Union Congress says the motion today (Tuesday) will put pressure on the Scottish Government to speed up the process of implementing the zones ‘protecting patients from harassment and intimidation’.

Lena Wanggren, UCU representative and mover of the motion, told STV news: “We brought this forward as we believe it is sadly very much needed and timely, as reproductive rights – especially abortion rights – are increasingly attacked. And now we in Scotland have a very good opportunity to protect both healthcare workers and those accessing services.

“I know a woman who started miscarrying at work but who didn’t dare tell her colleagues or employer as she was precariously employed on a fixed term contract.

“She was scared that if her employer knew she was trying to get pregnant then she wouldn’t have her contract renewed.

“This is a good example of how reproductive rights are a workplace and trade union issue, while noting that insecure working conditions (which disproportionately affect women) impact reproductive rights.”

“I am very confident that the buffer zones motion will be passed.”

During his first week in office, Humza Yousaf said he “unequivocally” backed the bill by Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay to create buffer or ‘safe access’ zones around abortion sites in Scotland. 

The First Minister said his government would offer any additional support it could to help progress the bill.

The trade union body has previously voiced support for Ms Mackay’s private members’ bill. 

Roz Foyer, STUC General Secretary, said: “No one accessing healthcare should be subject to intimidation or harassment. 

“The STUC has long been clear that abortions are essential healthcare and access to them should be treated as such. We are keen to engage with the drafters of the Bill and MSPs to ensure that trade union activity can be excluded from the scope of the Bill.” 

Pro-choice campaigners have voiced frustration at the pace of change in Scotland. There have been three abortion summits in Scotland, but no fixed timetable for when the zones could be introduced. 

Unlike in England, there are no councils in Scotland which have implemented local buffer zones. 

Local authorities such as Glasgow City Council and Edinburgh City Council declined to introduce buffer zones via by-laws due to legal advice they received, and the possibility of lengthy and costly legal challenges from anti-abortion groups. 

Anti-abortion group The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, SPUC, said the zones “persecute” those “seeking to give a voice to the voiceless”.

The Scottish Government has said work to bring forward the legislation “continues at pace” and it hopes to see a Bill introduced “as soon as possible”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister met with Gillian Mackay MSP during his first full week in office to discuss the progress on introducing safe access zones in Scotland and ensuring women can access healthcare free from intimidation, harassment or unwanted influence.

“During that productive meeting, he made clear that Scottish Government support for Ms Mackay’s Members’ Bill is unequivocal and unwavering.”

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