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MSP launches consultation on plans for buffer zones outside abortion clinics

Gillian Mackay MSP has launched a consultation on legislation to bring in buffer zones outside clinics which provide abortion services (Katharine Hay/PA)
Gillian Mackay MSP has launched a consultation on legislation to bring in buffer zones outside clinics which provide abortion services (Katharine Hay/PA)

Introducing buffer zones will help women access abortions without intimidation or harassment, a Green MSP said as consultation on the legislative proposals was launched.

Gillian Mackay’s proposed Member’s Bill would see 150-metre buffer zones put in place around healthcare facilities which provide abortion services.

It comes as protests have ramped up in Scotland in recent weeks, with anti-abortion campaigners stationed outside the Sandford clinic in Glasgow on May 11 with signs that read: “Abortion is murder.”

Back Off Scotland, which supports buffer zones, said staff inside the clinic could not consult patients on the side of the building nearest the protest.

Campaigners joined Central Scotland MSP Ms Mackay outside the Scottish Parliament on Thursday as she launched the consultation process.

Ms Mackay said: “Abortion is healthcare and people have an absolute right to access healthcare without intimidation or harassment.

“For far too long this has been going on and we’ve seen the frequency and the scale of these protests increasing over recent years.

“I think it’s essential that we make sure [the legislation] comes forward quickly to make sure that people are not for years experiencing these protests.”

The Scottish Government’s response to the protests and calls for buffer zones has come under fire in recent weeks, with pro-choice campaigners criticising its “inaction”.

However First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will chair a roundtable summit on the issue.

Addressing the Scottish Government’s handling of buffer zones, Ms Mackay said her Bill is the most logical way to end the “stalemate” between local and national government.

She said: “So far we’ve had really good engagement with the Scottish Government. I really hope we can get to a point where they will be able to support the legislation.”

She added that she hopes interim measures can be introduced to help local government create buffer zones without waiting for national legislation.

“I think it’s probably more frustrating for people accessing these services that there is no obvious way forward at the moment,” the MSP said.

The consultation will last 12 weeks and can be accessed online at bufferzones.scot.

Ms Mackay also said her stance on curbing protests at abortion clinics is not “hypocritical” given her opposition to UK Government plans to crack down on protests in general.

She added: “It’s about protecting access to healthcare, which is as much of our right as anything else and it’s about moving people to a more appropriate location.

“Come and protest us here at Parliament. Come and speak to the people that make the law.

“This is not about pro or anti-abortion. It’s about access to healthcare.”

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