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Greens to introduce world’s most extreme abortion buffer zone law to Scotland
Scottish Green Party MSP, Gillian Mackay, has published a bill at Holyrood which, if it becomes law, will introduce the world’s most extreme buffer zone law to Scotland.
The bill proposes an extreme law change in Scotland that would:
- Create a minimum of 200m ‘safe access’ or buffer zones around any facility that performs abortions where offering support to women would be criminalised. The 200m is a minimum, abortion providers can apply for the zone to be extended and the Bill gives the Scottish Government the power to extend any buffer zone beyond the 200m if they judge that the existing zone “does not adequately protect” women seeking an abortion. There is no limit on the size of the buffer zone that can be created under this power.
- The buffer zones introduced by this law extend further than any other buffer zones in the world. For example, the Public Order Act 2023 in England and Wales sets the limits of the buffer zones at 150m and the legislation does not give the Government the power to extend buffer zones beyond 150m.
- Within these zones, it will be illegal to influence a person in regard to their decision “to access… the provision of abortion” in an abortion clinic or a hospital.
- These provisions would make offers of help to women seeking an abortion illegal within a buffer zone, and could criminalise silent prayer.
- The provisions of the bill apply to “residential buildings” within the buffer zone so that it may be illegal to display a pro-life sign from a window within one’s own home.
- Anyone who commits an offence can be fined up to £10,000 on a summary conviction, or an unlimited fine on indictment.
Polling from Savanta ComRes shows that only 30% of the population in Scotland support the introduction of nationwide buffer zones around abortion clinics.
The poll assessed support for buffer zones of 150 metres, as will be introduced in England and Wales, so it is likely that support would be even lower for the Mackay buffer zone law given the proposed law in Scotland would introduce a more extreme 200m buffer zone.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said:
“If this bill becomes law, the world’s most extreme buffer zone law will be introduced in Scotland”.
“This legislation goes further than any buffer zone legislation in other jurisdictions, creating a larger buffer zone than anywhere else in the world and giving the Scottish Government powers to extend these zones without limit”.
“Many women have been helped outside abortion clinics by pro-life volunteers who have provided them with practical support, which made it clear to them that they had another option other than going through with the abortion”.
“The proposed law change would mean that the vital practical support provided by volunteers outside abortion clinics will be removed for women and many more lives would likely be lost to abortion”.
“Polling from Savanta ComRes shows that only 30% of the population in Scotland support the introduction of nationwide buffer zones around abortion clinics”.
“This is a truly draconian piece of legislation that reaches into the homes of ordinary people. It creates an offence for being publicly pro-life. It is direct viewpoint discrimination”.
“No one else is penalised for hanging the flag of their favourite football team from their window, or having a ‘Vote Labour’ sign, but if an individual or a church wants to display a sign, from within their own property, which says ‘Pregnant? We can help’, they may be guilty of violating this buffer zone legislation”.
“This legislation is not only a direct attack on free expression and public association based on viewpoint, it is entirely unnecessary insofar as harassment and intimidation are already illegal. Wherever they occur, existing legislation can and should be used to put a stop to them.”
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- For further information on Right To Life UK visit www.righttolife.org.uk
The polling was undertaken by Savanta ComRes who interviewed 2,191 British adults online in June, 2021. Full data tables are available here.