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Abortion care summit brings clinic buffer zones closer Abortion care summit brings clinic buffer zones closer
(about 3 hours later)
Green MSP Gillian Mackay has introduced a member's billGreen MSP Gillian Mackay has introduced a member's bill
Legal buffer zones around medical clinics could be a step closer after a national summit on abortion care.Legal buffer zones around medical clinics could be a step closer after a national summit on abortion care.
Nicola Sturgeon will convene a meeting on Monday to discuss a new bill to protect workers and service users at termination clinics in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon will convene a meeting later to discuss a new bill to protect workers and service users at termination clinics in Scotland.
The Scottish government has intimated it will support the member's bill introduced by Green MSP Gillian Mackay a month ago.The Scottish government has intimated it will support the member's bill introduced by Green MSP Gillian Mackay a month ago.
The law would see 492ft (150m) no-go areas put in outside health facilities.The law would see 492ft (150m) no-go areas put in outside health facilities.
Calls have recently increased to end intimidation from anti-abortion campaigners. The Edinburgh summit aims to ensure that women in Scotland can access services without fear, harassment or intimidation.
Groups such as the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children have said they will continue to defend the right to pray in public and offer help to desperate women. MSP wrong to criticise abortion clinics - Sturgeon
Earlier this month at First Minister's Questions, Labour MSP Carol Mochan raised the issue of intensifying intimidation of women attending the Sandyford sexual health clinic in Glasgow.
In April more than 100 people attended a vigil outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow
Nicola Sturgeon reaffirmed a previous offer to provide support to councils who would introduce by-laws to protect these locations.
She said there were "legal complexities" around legislating but said those were challenges local authorities and national government wanted to work through.
"It would be my preference to be able to legislate nationally in order to have a consistency of approach," she said.
The summit's main aim will be to focus on "mechanisms to establish effective buffer zones" around the locations.
Ms Sturgeon said: "It starts from the clear view that women must be able to access health care, including abortion services, free of harassment or intimidation.
"The proper focus for anyone protesting abortion should be parliament and lawmakers - not hospitals or sexual health clinics."
UK court ruling on NI abortion law due
Fresh calls for UK abortion clinic buffer zonesFresh calls for UK abortion clinic buffer zones
Glasgow Council's abortion protest buffer zone report overdue It follows recent reports of escalating incidents at the Sandyford clinic in central Glasgow.
She added: "Gatherings of this kind create additional stress for anyone using these facilities, for any purpose, and for those who work in them. But for women accessing abortion services, the upset, distress and fear that they cause can be profound." Women's Health Minister Maree Todd, told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme that staff and people attending clinics told her that protests were intimidating.
She said the current situation was "unacceptable" and needed to be addressed "as a matter of urgency". She said: "Everybody who is accessing healthcare at these sites has to run the gauntlet past them
The first minister previously raised concerns that a forthcoming Supreme Court case sparked by legislation in Northern Ireland would "undoubtedly have an impact on the legal framework here" and as such wanted to work with local authorities now "to protect women accessing sexual health services, including abortion services". "At the ones at Sandyford we have seen an escalation in behaviour. We have seen really, truly offensive signage being held up, voice amplification across the front of the building.
The development comes after the US Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v Wade decision, transforming abortion rights in America and allowing individual states to ban the procedure. "People are unable to ignore the protests and we have potentially seen the use of bodycams which is a real invasion of privacy as someone accesses healthcare."
Nicola Sturgeon called it "one of the darkest days for women's rights." There are fears the recent reversal of abortion rights in the US will "embolden" protesters in Scotland
She said: "Obviously the immediate consequences will be suffered by women in the US - but this will embolden anti-abortion and anti-women forces in other countries too. Anti-abortion groups, such as the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, have said they would continue to defend the right to pray in public and offer help to women outside clinics.
"Solidarity doesn't feel enough right now - but it is necessary." Lois McLatchie, from the Christian campaigning group ADF UK, told the BBC her volunteers were offering support and advice on alternatives to abortion.
A summit on abortion care will take place in Edinburgh on Monday She added: "Buffer zones ban legitimate offers of help and silent prayer and mean women may not be able to access those other options - practical help or financial help.
The Greens' Gillian Mackay said: "This will only stop safe abortions and put lives at risk," she said. "Solidarity to all those in the US. "Women have the right to hear about these options at the point of need and it is patronising of the government saying women don't want to hear this."
"Here we need to continue to fight for progress. 'Highly inappropriate'
"That means buffer zones, telemedical abortion and services safe and accessible for all." However, Alice Murray of pro-choice group Back Off Scotland - said there was a misunderstanding from some anti-abortion campaigners over what happens at clinic appointments.
Ms Mackay added: "My bill will provide peace of mind to all those accessing abortion services, by introducing protest-free buffer zones around clinics. She said: "Women don't need to be offered the other side by strangers outside. You are talked through the process and your options by a specific healthcare provider.
"We believe it should be the NHS and healthcare providers who give that information. A lot of the leaflets we see handed out outside these clinics have misinformation on them.
"These people outside can't be trusted to give accurate advice or support. It's highly inappropriate."
Protesters hand out leaflets to women accessing abortion services, which pro-choice campaigners say contain misinformation
The summit comes after the US Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v Wade decision, transforming abortion rights in America and allowing individual states to ban the procedure.
Green MSP Gillian Mackay, who introduced the bill, said the US move would "stop safe abortions and put lives at risk."
She said: "Here we need to continue to fight for progress. That means buffer zones, telemedical abortion and services safe and accessible for all.
"There is no place for the type of intimidation and harassment we are regularly seeing outside these healthcare facilities at the moment."There is no place for the type of intimidation and harassment we are regularly seeing outside these healthcare facilities at the moment.
"Both healthcare staff, and those accessing services, have relayed horrifying stories of the impact this harassment can have. "Both healthcare staff, and those accessing services, have relayed horrifying stories of the impact this harassment can have."
"While the parliamentary process can seem frustratingly slow, it is right that there is time for thorough consultation and scrutiny before any proposal becomes law." UK court ruling on NI abortion law due
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who is attending the summit, said: "On Friday, the unthinkable was announced: millions of women will lose the right to an abortion in the US. We must take action now. Glasgow Council's abortion protest buffer zone report overdue
"This long overdue summit is a vital chance to introduce robust action that can give women the protection they need more than ever." Nicola Sturgeon spoke recently on the "legal complexities" around legislating for buffer zones, but said those were challenges local authorities and national government wanted to work through.
As well as discussing legislation to introduce buffer zones, the first minister's summit will also seek to identify immediate actions to protect women outside hospitals and sexual health clinics.
Ms Sturgeon described the Roe v Wade decision "one of the darkest days for women's rights."
She said: "Obviously the immediate consequences will be suffered by women in the US - but this will embolden anti-abortion and anti-women forces in other countries too."