Far too many having access to abortion impeded by anti-choice protesters - Lorna Slater

Abortion rights are healthcare, but here in Edinburgh and across our country, far too many people are having their access impeded by anti-choice protesters.
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna SlaterMinister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater
Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater

That’s why last Thursday was such an important day in the Scottish Parliament. My Scottish Green colleague Gillian Mackay published the final proposal for her Safe Access Zone Bill, which will create 150 metre “buffer zones” outside abortion service providers, and will stop the protests.

Gillian required the signatures of 18 MSPs, which she achieved in less than half an hour. The fact that there were Green MSPs lining up with their Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat counterparts is a sign of the strength of feeling there is in Holyrood and beyond. As a Scottish Government minister I was not allowed to sign the proposal itself, but I was happy to show my support. I was proud to join the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, and my fellow Green minister Patrick Harvie in congratulating Gillian and wishing her every success.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is shocking that this bill is even necessary. Nobody should be targeted or obstructed when accessing the healthcare they are entitled to. But that is what has been happening at hospitals and clinics throughout our country for far too long. The Chalmers Street Sexual Health Centre here in Edinburgh is one of the sites that has been targeted the most, with protests going back for years. Scottish Green councillors are among those that have tried to have them stopped, but they have not had the powers to do so.

At the heart of it, this is about humanity. A lot of the stories that people have taken the time to share with Gillian have been really awful. Many of them are included in the consultation document that is available on the Scottish Parliament website and was published alongside the proposal. I’m not going to repeat those stories here, but they make for extremely difficult reading and underline exactly why this change is so urgent. The trauma that has been inflicted on both patients and staff is totally wrong and has clearly had a huge effect on them. Nobody should be made to feel that way.

The protesters have tried to use shame and guilt as weapons against people who are often in very vulnerable positions. They have forced service users to endure a gauntlet, with some brandishing extremely graphic placards and megaphones merely feet away from health centres and clinics. There’s no excuse for this kind of harassment. It has no place in a progressive or inclusive Scotland. My heart and my solidarity goes out to everyone who has been impacted by it.

Gillian’s Bill will be formally introduced later in the year. I’m looking forward to working with her, and with my Scottish Government colleagues, to ensure that we end the intimidation for good.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.