A side-on shot of a row of religious protestors lined up outside an abortion healthcare facility.

We submit our views to buffer zones consultation

December 18, 2023

We have submitted our views to a consultation on the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill. If implemented, this bill will create a “buffer zone” of 200m around abortion services in Scotland. This will make the religiously motivated harassment of people accessing these health facilities illegal. Responses to the consultation will help Scottish parliament to decide if and how to implement the bill.

As we note in our response, the proposed buffer-zone law is based on evidence that anti-abortion protests can have a negative impact on people accessing health services even if they are not directly confronted or approached. We also note that self-styled “counselling services” for women seeking abortion healthcare should not be permitted to offer their pro-life perspective without consent.

Furthermore, “freedom of speech” arguments against buffer zones are generally based on an inadequate understanding of the nature and limits of freedom of speech in the UK. These are defined by the European Convention on Human Rights. Often, freedom-of-speech arguments against buffer zones are based on a mis-application of US First Amendment Rights.

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Title image: Gemma Clark.

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