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Holyrood backs buffer zones

BUFFER ZONES around abortion clinics passed their final legal  hurdle today after Holyrood passed “seismic” new legislation.

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill was brought forward by Green MSP Gillian MacKay to curb anti-abortion protests – long cited as an intimidatory presence – outside health centres.

Thirty sites across Scotland will now have 200m exclusion zones for protest, as the plans won overwhelming backing from across the chamber after being amended to include a review every three years.

Labour MSP Carol Mochan thanked Ms Mackay for her working across party lines.

She told MSPs: “It has long been the view of my party that Scotland should pass this legislation to ensure safe access to healthcare for women.

“The truth is, access to abortion clinics is access to healthcare and this legislation when passed today allows us to talk about this openly and ensure women facing intimidation now do not have to do so in future.”

Moving the Bill, which she described as “seismic,” Ms Mackay paid tribute to all those who had been “respectful and acted in good faith”  throughout the legislative process.

She said: “We should never downplay the individual difference it will make, or the significance of telling women all across the country that their privacy, and dignity, are not open to public debate at the point that they are receiving care.”

Referring to the testimony of Lily Roberts at the committee stage of the Bill, Ms Mackay added: “She said, and I quote ‘if buffer zones had been in place when I had my experience, it would have made me feel really safe. I do not think that it is too much to ask for safety when you’re accessing healthcare.’

“This afternoon, this is exactly what this chamber can deliver.”

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