Second summit on abortion care in Scotland to be convened by FM

A second summit on abortion buffer zones is set to be convened.

Second abortion care in Scotland summit to set to be convened by First Minister STV News

The First Minister is set to convene a second abortion summit on Monday with representatives from COSLA and “the most affected local authorities”.

The summit will further discuss the implementation of buffer zones around clinics offering abortions in Scotland.

Earlier this year at the initial summit, Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Government would consider enacting buffer zones in some “test councils”, including Edinburgh and Glasgow as potential candidates, which have been the target of anti abortion ‘vigils’ and protests in recent months.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Women must be able to access abortion services, and healthcare staff be free to do their job, without fear of harassment or intimidation in any way while providing essential health care.

“The First Minister and the Women’s Health Minister are meeting local authorities and CoSLA on Monday to discuss how Council bye-laws might be used to prevent women feeling harassed or intimidated by protests and vigils held outside abortion clinics. We are committed to supporting any council that wishes to progress work on a byelaw as far as is appropriate.

“This would be an interim measure and is in addition to the commitment Ministers have already given to help progress national level legislation to address these issues. The Minister for Women’s Health is continuing to liaise closely with Gillian Mackay MSP on her proposals for a Member’s Bill.”

A consultation on legislating buffer zones around abortion clinics attracted more than 12,000 responses.

Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay’s proposed Abortion Services Safe Access Zones (Scotland) Bill would allow for a 150-metre buffer around hospitals and clinics. 

Initially, the Scottish Government had discounted legislating for a national approach, saying councils could rely on byelaws to address the issue.

However the issue of protesters outside abortion clinics has continued to spark outrage across political parties and from campaigners and clinicians.

The summit comes as it emerged that thousands of pounds are being spent by the Scottish Government on ‘civic mediation’ between anti abortion protesters and those impacted by them in Scotland.

A £10,000 contract was awarded to civic mediation company Centre for Good Relations to carry out the work which was criticised by buffer zone campaigners Back Off Scotland.

The Scottish Government said there was “no proposals whatsoever to hold meetings between patients and protestors”.

When asked about the contract, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Last year, a working group was formed to explore possible ways to solve the problem of women being harassed outside abortion clinics as quickly as possible. 

“A number of pieces of work have been commissioned by the working group to explore views in this area, including this work and research to develop a detailed picture of women’s experiences as a result of the protests.

“The Centre for Good Relations has met separately with various parties, including Back Off Scotland as patient representatives, to hear their views. There are no proposals whatsoever to hold meetings between patients and protestors as part of this process. 

“The initial scoping phase is complete and we are currently discussing with the working group and the Centre for Good Relations whether this work should continue – not least as representatives of some protesters appear determined to carry on with their activities without regard for their impact.

“This is only one of a number of actions being taken and the Scottish Government remains committed to national legislation, which is being discussed with Gillian Mackay MSP in relation to her proposed Bill for safe access zones.”

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