In a letter seen exclusively by The Scotsman, Monica Lennon urges Women’s Health Minister Maree Todd to confirm the Scottish Government will “keep its promises” and outline when national legislation around anti-abortion buffer zones will be introduced.
A national plan around buffer zones was a promise made in the SNP’s manifesto and the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government. Ms Lennon states a timescale on this is now needed.
Ms Lennon also claims Scotland is “falling behind” other parts of the UK in terms of committing to permanent access to telemedicine for early abortion.
The Central Scotland Scottish Labour MSP hopes to raise her letter during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, however, this will be at the discretion of the Presiding Officer.
The MSP’s letter comes as group Back Off Scotland, campaigning for 150 metre buffer zones around clinics, is calling on Ms Todd to resign. The group is calling for her resignation due to what they claim is “lack of action” towards a rise in anti-abortion protests “threatening women’s access to healthcare”.
Last week, over a hundred people gathered outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow to protest against abortion.
In response, over 76 doctors in Glasgow signed a letter, calling on the Women's Health minister to introduce protest-free ‘buffer zones’ across clinics.
Dr Greg Irwin, lead signatory of the letter, has not yet had an official response from Ms Todd.
Ms Lennon writes: “Recess [at the Scottish Parliament] is over and it is vital that you update Parliament on the action you will take to protect access to safe and legal abortion.
"It is time to break your silence and make a clear commitment to introduce legislation for buffer zones at abortion healthcare facilities.
"Abortion is a basic healthcare need and is fundamentally linked to protecting and upholding the rights of women, girls and others who can become pregnant.
"It continues to be a hotly contested issue globally, resulting in barriers to safe, free and legal abortion. Under your watch, Scotland is now seen as an easy target by those who wish to end abortion.”
On March 30, the House of Commons voted to make telemedicine for early abortion care permanent in England, bringing England into line with the position in Wales set out by the Welsh Government.
In her letter, Ms Lennon writes: “Why is Scotland trailing behind? The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists considers access to telemedicine for early abortion one that protects women’s rights to access the healthcare they deserve and gives them the choice of accessing early abortion care at home.
"If the Scottish Government is serious about abortion rights, Scotland must not trail behind England and Wales on appropriate provisions for early abortion.” "
Consultation on a member’s Bill brought forward by Green MSP Gillian Mackay to introduce buffer zones is currently being finalised and Ms Todd said she is working “constructively” with the Green MSP on bringing forward the bill. However, Ms Lennon said this could take months to implement given a necessary 3-month consultation period.