Back Off Scotland

Gillian Mackay MSP is consulting on a bill to introduce buffer zones in Scotland. We need your support to make it happen.

What's happening in Scotland?

Across Scotland, there are individuals and groups who gather outside healthcare sites that provide abortion services to attempt to dissuade or deter access to or provision of abortion care.

This activity is organised, widespread, and persistent. Women accessing abortion care have reported that they find this activity harassing, alarming, and distressing. Abortion providers report that it has a negative impact on their patients, and that staff can also experience harassment and intimidation.

Since 2017 there have been seven hospitals and clinics in Scotland that have experienced protests, and 70% of women of reproductive age live in a health board area that has hospitals or clinics that have been targeted by anti-choice groups in the past five years.

What are safe access zones and why do we need them?

The Bill would provide a safe access zone around abortion clinics and healthcare settings that provide abortion services. Safe access or ‘buffer’ zones are areas around a clinic or hospital where certain types of activity are banned – for example following women, handing out leaflets, or displaying signs.

Three councils in England have buffer zones around clinics that had persistent issues with protests. These zones have been very effective. Outside BPAS Richmond, where there used to be daily protests, there hasn’t been a single person present since the zone was introduced.

However, these local zones are only effective in the area they’re introduced. Elsewhere in England, the number of clinics targeted has actually increased since the first buffer zones were introduced. That is why we need a national law – ensuring all women are protected, no matter where they live.

How is BPAS involved?

BPAS has been working closely with Gillian Mackay MSP, the grassroots campaign group Back Off Scotland, and legal counsel to bring this bill forward.

We have been campaigning to introduce buffer zones around the UK since 2014, and have repeatedly raised this issue with government and politicians in Scotland for at least 5 years. Despite this, the Scottish government has declined to take action and we are now using the Member’s Bill process to take forward our own solution to this problem.

You can find an example of the kind of buffer zone legislation BPAS has put forward before here.

There is a consultation open on this Member’s Bill and we need your help. You have until 10th August 2022 to respond.

You can respond to the consultation directly here: www.bufferzones.scot

Alternatively, you can read the full consultation document on our website here.

If you’d like some thoughts on how to respond, you can see our BPAS and Back Off Scotland guide here.

You can read the consultation response from BPAS here.