Abortion Scotland: Poll shows 72% majority support buffer zone restrictions outside clinics

A poll has revealed 72 per cent of people are in favour of buffer zones to keep protestors away from abortion clinics.

The research by Survation commissioned by the Scottish Greens shows only 7 per cent of people were opposed to buffer zone measures.

Buffer zones outside reproductive health clinics are designed to ensure that women are not harassed or obstructed from accessing confidential advice and treatment. The question asked in the poll was “to what extent would you support or oppose the creation of buffer zones to keep anti-abortion protestors to a minimum distance from those accessing services at clinics and hospitals?”

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Out of the 1,024 respondents, 14 per cent neither supported or opposed introducing the protest restrictions and 7 per cent said they did not know.

Campaigners who are against abortion protest outside Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth Hospital. They will be demonstrating at the hospital for the whole of Lent (Photo: John Devlin).

It comes as protests by the anti-abortion groups such as 40 Days for Life returned outside abortion clinics across Scotland this week.

Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay intends to launch a member’s bill to implement legal restrictions such as buffer zones on anti-abortion protests outside clinics.

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Welcoming the new polling, Ms Mackay said: “Everyone should be able to access healthcare unimpeded, but sadly that isn’t the case for many of those accessing reproductive healthcare.

“Protests and intimidation outside hospitals and abortion clinics causes real distress to people using these services, and it is not just people who are accessing abortions who are impacted. Anyone who accesses healthcare at premises that deliver abortions can be targeted.

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“I am heartened to see such emphatic public support for the introduction of buzzer zones, a measure that will be so important in allowing all those who need to access these services to do so without the fear of harassment.”

The survey was commissioned by ministers after it was announced last week that research on abortion clinic protests would be undertaken to focus on their “prevalence, frequency and scale”, their “impact” on patients, and the “perspectives and motivations” of those involved in the protests, according to official documents.

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Back Off Scotland, a campaign group that has called for the implementation of 150m buffer zones, has also welcomed the results of the survey.

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Lucy Grieve, co-founder and director of the group said: “These figures show strong support from the public about buffer zones.

"Protests have just returned this week for the next forty days, so I believe the numbers in opposition will get higher as the presence returns and the public are more aware of what’s going on."

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Official documents state the majority of protests occur in Glasgow and Edinburgh and the research comes after the Government “received concerns asserting that the protests/vigils negatively impact women accessing clinics” and asked for action.

Ms Grieve added: "It’s across the whole of Scotland.

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"It happens even at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary where people go to get abortions for fetal abornamilities.”

Health minister Maree Todd has previously told Holyrood the Scottish Government “does not feel” a nationwide ban on the protests was an option.

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Ms Todd argued councils should use local bye-laws to implement the restrictions, which would restrict how close protesters can get to clinics.

However, COSLA’s legal council deemed that enacting buffer zones under council bye-law would be “unlawful”.

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"When it comes down to it, it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure all women can access health care.” Ms Grieve said.

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