Abortion clinic buffer zones will be one of Scottish devolution’s ‘proudest legacies’
Gillian Mackay, Scottish Greens MSP, has brought forward the Abortion Services Safe Access Zones (Scotland) Bill in a bid to stop anti-abortion protesters from gathering outside clinics.
Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed the Scottish Government will back the legislation, meaning it should pass through Holyrood easily with backing from most SNP and Scottish Green MSPs.
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On Tuesday, the First Minister will chair a summit in Edinburgh about the legislation, which will be addressed by both Mackay and former Green MLA Clare Bailey, who was behind the legislation that successfully introduced buffer zones outside of clinics in Northern Ireland.
The UK Supreme Court ruled in December that the Northern Irish legislation was within Stormont’s competence, with this seen as smoothing the way for the Scottish Bill.
Mackay said the Supreme Court ruling had set a “historic” precedent, as she told how momentum was increasing around her proposals.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s summit, Mackay said: “The introduction of buffer zones will be one of the proudest legacies of devolution, and I am delighted that we are so close to delivering it.
“In holding this summit, the First Minister is showing clear leadership and defending the right to choose. I am grateful for her support as momentum around the bill gathers pace.”
She said the summit would play a key role in ensuring the bill that is put before Holyrood is the “best and most robust legislation that it can be” and will introduce a “watertight” ban on protesters near abortion clinics.
The Central Scotland MSP continued: “Abortion rights are healthcare and they must be protected and expanded.
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“Nobody should be obstructed or harassed when accessing healthcare, yet, far too many people across Scotland have to endure a gauntlet of intimidation and abuse.”
Mackay said that 12,000 responses received to the consultation on her proposals showed the “strength of feeling” about the issue, as she added: “It is time to stop the harassment and end these protests for good.
“The precedent that was set in Northern Ireland was historic, and I hope that Scotland can follow it as soon as possible.”
The consultation launched in May last year, with Mackay adding that she hoped to see the legislation brought in “as soon as possible”.