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#CabinetTakeover 2023: Buffer zones

Blue and orange graphic with an image of Ruby Cardie MSYP with text that reads 'Buffer zones. #CabinetTakeover'. SYP logo in top left.
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I am very grateful to have gotten the chance to speak to the Scottish Cabinet on the importance of the creation of buffer zones around abortion care facilities at the annual joint cabinet meeting with the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament during a time in which abortion rights and equity in Scotland – and the wider world – are upsettingly under jeopardy.

At the meeting, I was able to voice the urgent need for abortion equity and decriminalisation for Scottish young people, as well as highlighting the importance of including young people in this discussion of healthcare rights and access. This theme of the active involvement of young people in all aspects of decision-making, from its very roots, was raised by all speakers at the meeting as a heartening nod to the necessity of our participation in decisions which have an impact on us and that we care about.

You can read my speech below:

I am soon due to start volunteering at the Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh; my journey, with thanks to the free bus travel for under 22s scheme, covers my favourite wynds in Edinburgh, while simultaneously passing two anti-abortion health-care advice centres through this central route.

The increased misinformation and scare-mongering around abortion care has had a particularly damaging impact on young people who are most vulnerable to this. Zoom out on the national picture, and you will find that 70% of us live within a health board that has faced harassment outside of abortion care services in the last five years.

We know this is appalling: indeed, there is shared cross-party, cross-nation – on the back of Northern Ireland’s Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, and cross-societal support for the creation of buffer zones around abortion care facilities. 

Additionally, it is an issue young people care about ardently. Especially, at a time when we are terrified to be hearing of the erosion of abortion rights in America, with the overturning of Roe V Wade one year ago. Indeed, it took this terrifying decision alone to instigate rapid SYP policy in support of buffer zones. Young people needed a rapid response to this issue to protect people accessing abortion services in Scotland. We ran a consultation and saw an outpouring of support for buffer zones, unanimously agreeing that the Bill would make people feel safer as some young people, upsettingly, are currently scared to access services because of the overwhelming knowledge of the existence of intimidating protests and harassment.

This apprehension is exacerbated due to the high amount of media exposure the protests receive which causes hesitation among young people in accessing our basic right, as per article 24 of the UNCRC, to good quality healthcare. This is bolstered by a saddening theme found throughout the consultation that concluded in 2023 that more work still must be done to destigmatise abortion, improve awareness of services and make them more welcoming, for the overwhelmingly young age group most likely to need to access them. Therefore, beyond buffer zones, access to correct information and advice regarding abortion is vital and must be co-designed by these young people – who are clearly both at the forefront of the campaign for equitable abortion care and at the mercy of current unequal, harassment-filled abortion access. 

SYP has stood fervently in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion since the passing of a motion on the issue in June 2020, and our commitment and concern for abortion equity has continued beyond this. Hence, we were excited to see that the First Minister agreed abortions should be decriminalised in the leadership contest. Now we’re calling you to stay true to your word and support the hurried implementation of the member’s bill for the creation of buffer zones, as well as improve access to abortion services to support the over-arching need to decriminalise abortion and make healthcare access safe for all people in Scotland. 

You can find out more about buffer zones in my original blog post.

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