Nicola Sturgeon commits to establishing abortion buffer zones around Scottish clinics

Nicola Sturgeon commits to establishing abortion buffer zones around Scottish clinics
The summit is an important opportunity to ‘reaffirm women’s autonomy and right to choose’, said Ms Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has backed establishing buffer zones around abortion clinics in Scotland so women can access services “free of harassment and intimidation”.

The first minister was speaking at the abortion summit in Edinburgh which aims to ensure that women can access abortion services.

Ms Sturgeon said the summit had come at a particularly important time, given the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling, thereby ending Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion, which she described as “one of the darkest days for women’s rights in my lifetime”.

Ms Sturgeon said that the proper focus for anyone protesting against abortion should be Parliament and lawmakers, not hospitals or sexual health clinics.

She said: “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.

“At what is already a very stressful time, women are being forced to see or make their way past these groups on the way in. And once they’re inside, on top of everything else, there’s the knowledge that they may have to see them again on the way out.

“In my view, the current situation is unacceptable, and it’s one which we must address as a matter of urgency. I am determined that we do so.

“There are issues that we need to solve to establish buffer zones through legislation but if we work together in a spirit of solidarity, I am confident we can find a way.”

The summit brings together representatives from local government, third sector organisations, Police Scotland, the NHS and campaigners.

Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay last month launched a consultation on her proposed member’s bill, which would see 150m buffer zones put in place around healthcare facilities that provide abortion services.

The Scottish government said it is committed to working constructively with Ms Mackay on her bill, which she hopes can identify short-term solutions to combat unacceptable behaviour while it is passing through the parliamentary process.

In March, New Zealand passed a law creating safe areas around abortion facilities. The bill allows for safe areas of no more than 150m around clinics.

It also made it illegal for people to obstruct, film in an intimidating manner, advise or dissuade someone from accessing abortion services, or protest about matters relating to abortion services within these areas.