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.
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.
Safe access zones are set to become law in England and Wales as a part of the Public Order Bill, leaving Scotland behind the rest of the UK.
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.