MSPs approve buffer zones at abortion clinics

Buffer zonesImage source, PA
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Protests close to abortion clinics would be banned under the new law

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MSPs in the Scottish Parliament have passed a bill to introduce buffer zones around clinics providing abortions.

The legislation would prevent any protests or vigils taking place within 200m (656ft) of 30 clinics offering abortion services.

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill, external, tabled by Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay, passed by 118 votes to one.

Opponents had said the bill could infringe on freedom of religion and wanted exclusions for silent prayer.

But Ms Mackay said everyone should be able to access healthcare with dignity and free of harassment.

She said: "For far too long women and health care staff have been forced to run a gauntlet of intimidation, judgment and fear in order to access or deliver treatment at what can often be the most emotional of times.

"No protester and no group should be allowed to tell women what they are or are not allowed to do with their body.

"This should be their choice, their privacy, and their decision."

A spokeswoman for Care for Scotland said: "The police are already empowered to deal with any incidents of abuse or harassment that occur under existing, well-balanced laws.

"Police data shows that pro-life activities do not involve the 'harassment' some campaigners claim is taking place.

"Some have wrongly sought to other and problematise peaceful pro-life people who offer support to women."