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Buffer Zones: Our Reproductive Right

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When trying to access abortion services, people are being met with harsh protests and distressing intimidation – sometimes even trying to dissuade them from procedures- outside abortion service providers across Scotland.

According to the campaigning group, Back off Scotland, since 2017 there have been 7 hospitals and clinics in Scotland that have experienced anti-choice protests. This means that 70% of us live under a health board that has experienced difficulty in access to empowered abortion. This is deeply upsetting as no one should be made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, especially in a healthcare setting. 

Therefore, I worked with SYP’s staff, Trustees, Conveners and various Committees to develop the following policy:

“The Scottish Youth Parliament supports calls for new legislation to protect those accessing abortion services from intimidation and harassment through the creation of protest buffer zones around relevant medical facilities in Scotland.”

‘Buffer Zones’ exist in places such as Canada, Australia, as well as parts of England and the USA. They create a parameter of 150m around clinics and hospitals providing abortion services preventing intimidation activities such as filming or leafleting and protests from occurring within this safe area. The Scottish Youth Parliament supports the creation of buffer zones as we want those accessing abortions to feel safe in making whatever decision they choose to without the intimidating influence of others, allowing them to access abortion free from any form of harassment.

Part of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, legislates the right to access legal, confidential healthcare services. Therefore, in the absence of Buffer Zones, the fundamental human rights of those accessing abortion services are breached. This is particularly relevant given the current curtailing of reproductive rights worldwide with the overturning in the Supreme Court of Roe vs Wade in the USA – learn more about Roe v Wade here – which is presently negatively impacting reproductive rights and may even result in similar regressive policies elsewhere.

As anti-choice protests progress and reproductive rights deplete worldwide, it is vital that this does not occur in Scotland and we incorporate additional points of protection, through buffer zones, instead of contributing to the dissolution of our own healthcare rights.

As part of the preparation for this Motion, I asked my fellow MSYPs why the creation of buffer zones is important to them.

Members agreed that no matter your personal stance on abortion, people should be able to access these healthcare services in a respectful manner.

It was also said that those looking to undergo such a medical procedure faced great difficulty when making a decision and that only the person directly concerned would be aware of their individual, personal circumstances.

To whatever extent you agree with abortions, I think we can all rally behind the idea that women should be treated with dignity and should be free from harassment when accessing one, something that is already an inherently difficult and painful decision, just as they would be protected when receiving any other form of healthcare.

MSYP on buffer zones

Now that we have official SYP policy on this crucial issue, it’s time to turn to action.  SYP will be preparing a response to Gillian Mackay’s Private Members’ Bill, and will seek further views from MSYPs to inform this. I will also be in touch with other campaigners to see how we can support their efforts.

No one should have to feel intimidated or harassed for doing what is best for them. Especially since no one but them actually will know the reason that the person is making that decision.

MSYP on buffer zones

Want to take action yourself? Here are some suggestions for how you can support this policy change:

1.    Write to your MSP to ask for their support on this issue, informing them of SYP’s support and why it is important to you (find your local MSP here).

2.    Share Gillian Mackay MSP’s consultation on buffer zones with young people in your areas and encourage them to have their say (see here).

3.    Share SYP’s social media posts (see here) to help raise awareness.

It’s important to me as I firmly believe the right to a safe abortion is basic healthcare, therefore, people don’t protest outside pharmacies because they disagree with antibiotics, so why should they violently protest/harass people outside sexual health clinics because they disagree with abortions.

MSYP on buffer zones

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