Abortion Scotland: Scottish Government to support Green proposals to ban protests outside abortion clinics

Gillian Mackay one step closer to seeing her proposals turned into law

The Scottish Government says it will be supporting Green proposals to ban protests outside abortion clinics.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay is now one step closer to bringing forward a member’s Bill to create safe access zones around clinics offering abortions. Should this become law, it would ban anyone protesting within 150m of a clinic. This comes after 12,000 people responded to a public consultation on the idea.

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Now First Minister Humza Yousaf says he and the Government will be supporting Ms Mackay’s proposals, saying it is “not acceptable for anyone to experience intimidation as they access essential healthcare”.

The proposals would see protests banned within 150 metres of abortion clinics. Image: John Devlin.The proposals would see protests banned within 150 metres of abortion clinics. Image: John Devlin.
The proposals would see protests banned within 150 metres of abortion clinics. Image: John Devlin.

Ms Mackay, who represents Central Scotland, said she was “ecstatic” to get her campaign to this stage. She said 56.1 per cent of people who responded to the consultation supported her, and added 68 per cent disagreed with intimidation outside clinics.

However, she told The Scotsman 3,500 of the anti-abortion views submitted to the consultation all came from the same IP address and had to be counted as individual responses.

Ms Mackay says if these responses were counted as one instead, the level of support would be up nearer 70 per cent. She said: “I want to thank everyone who took a great amount of time and effort to give their personal stories.

“It can’t have been easy for them to give their testimony of such a traumatic time. It is so important we end harassment so people are not worried about what they will face outside of a hospital.

“I hope we can get to a point where we forget this was even a thing.”

Ms Mackay said such protesters targeted people based on their age and gender because of “deep rooted misogyny”. She said some patients had cancelled or tried to rearrange their appointments as a result.

Ms Mackay said: “The harm reduction will be massive.”

She now wants to make sure the rest of the process to introduce the Bill moves quickly, but she added she wanted to avoid rushing the legislation and seeing it ending up in a court battle.

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This comes only days after a mother-of-three was jailed for 28 months in England for having an abortion beyond the legal limit during the coronavirus lockdown.

Ms Mackay said this showed there was a need to do more beyond introducing buffer zones, and stressed abortion needs to be completely decriminalised.

She said: “We are constantly trying to break down stigma and speak about women’s healthcare being better researched, but how many women will now think twice about coming forward?”

Women’s health minister Jenni Minto said this was an “important milestone” on the road to protecting women from distress and alarm when going for an abortion.

She said: “It is absolutely unacceptable for women to face any fear of harassment, intimidation or unwanted influence when accessing essential healthcare services. And it goes without saying that the same goes for healthcare staff doing their job.

“We are committed to supporting Ms Mackay with her member’s Bill, which will deliver national legislation on safe access zones.”

A US anti-abortion group that operates in Scotland had previously said it would mount a legal challenge to this legislation.



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