Glasgow could introduce first abortion buffer zone in Scotland to limit protests outside clinics

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Glasgow could become the first area in Scotland to introduce buffer zones aimed at limiting protests outside abortion clinics.

SNP ministers are considering drafting new legislation to hand councils the powers to introduce bylaws to keep anti-abortion campaigners away from hospital entrances and exits.

It is understood Glasgow is viewed as an ideal testing ground for the policy as the city sees more anti-abortion protests than any other local authority.

READMORE: Abortion buffer zones ‘necessary’ in Scotland

Pro-choice campaigners and politicians have been calling on the Scottish Government to introduce buffer zones as a matter of priority to prevent patients being harassed or intimidated.

Both the Sandyford clinic and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow have been targeted by anti-abortion protesters in recent months.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon today led a summit in Edinburgh aimed at finding short-term solutions to protecting women from harassment outside medical centres.

The SNP leader and public health minister Maree Todd met with police, council chiefs and campaigners to discuss the issue.

Todd told reporters: “Clearly we need to have discussions with councils on this issue.

Glasgow's Sandyford clinic has been targeted by anti-abortion protesters
Glasgow’s Sandyford clinic has been targeted by anti-abortion protesters

“At the moment, most of the concern is arising in Glasgow so that would be an obvious place to start, but I’m more than happy to have discussions with any council that is willing to seek a legal opinion and funding on that.”

She added: “Glasgow is where much of the problem is.

“I think everyone has been shocked at the scale of the protests, no matter how peaceful, outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

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“To have more than 100 people gather together during Lent is undoubtedly intimidating for people accessing healthcare there.

“The recent escalation at the Sandyford clinic, where we have seen absolutely appallingly offensive signs being held up, and body cameras being worn, meaning women lose their right to privacy – they are the ones I have most concern about.”

Speaking after the summit, Sturgeon described talks as “very constructive and very helpful.”

“They certainly clarified some issues in my mind and given a lot of focus for the actions we now need to take in the short, medium and longer-term,” she said.

Sturgeon spoke with clinic staff and patients who had experienced anti-abortion protests first hand.

She added: “There is no doubt the long-term solution here is national legislation.

“We’ve got to get the balance of that right so it can withstand the inevitable challenge it will face under European Human Rights legislation.

“But that is the right way forward in my view and there is a commitment on the part of the government to do that.

“In the short term, there is work to be done and we have had an indication of willingness on the part of local authorities to work with government to explore legislation.”

Green MSP Gillian Mackay last month launched a consultation on a proposed Member’s Bill which would see 150-metre buffer zones put in place around abortion clinics.

The Scottish Government said it is committed to working constructively with Mackay on the Bill.

She said: “My Bill will provide peace of mind to all those accessing abortion services, by introducing protest-free buffer zones around clinics.

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“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 revealed 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.

“In the meantime, I believe there are a number of options that could be taken forward as interim solutions, particularly in the most egregious examples of this intimidatory behaviour.

“I am grateful to the First Minister for convening today’s summit and hope we can explore some of these options to improve access to services as well as discussing the practicalities of my Bill proposal.”

The Record has asked Glasgow City Council for comment.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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