Everyone should have access to healthcare without harassment

Buffer zones will protect reproductive rights and ensures safe access to healthcare.

Everybody should be able to access healthcare without having to run a gauntlet of disapproval and judgement, says Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay.

Ms Mackay was giving the opening speech in the Stage 1 debate on her Safe Access Zones bill, which will create 200 metre safe access zones, or ‘buffer zones’ to stop anti-choice campaign groups from protesting outside hospitals or other abortion service providers.

Stage 1 is a key stage for a bill, and is the first time MSPs will vote on its principles. It will then progress to stage 2 where it will receive amendments and further scrutiny ahead of the final vote at stage 3.

Opening her debate, Ms Mackay said: “This is a relatively small bill, but its size does not reflect the depth of feeling it has provoked or the scale of change it will bring. 

“Abortion can be deeply polarising. I don’t expect or intend to change that – even across this Parliament, we will hold different views. But this Bill is not about the rights or wrongs of abortion. It is about the right and ability of patients to access care without running a gauntlet of disapproval and judgement.”

“Some don’t think there is a need for safe access zones. I whole-heartedly wish that were so. But too much testimony says otherwise.”

Reflecting on the terrible impact of the protests, Ms Mackay added: “Attending any unfamiliar medical procedure can be stressful – most of us worry about whether it will hurt, or whether something will go wrong. 

“Is there anyone here who doesn’t think that would be more stressful, more frightening even, if you also had to worry that there might be people waiting outside to convince you not to go in? To perhaps call you names? Or to inaccurately suggest there might be consequences of that procedure you haven’t thought of, like cancer or infertility? 

“All this Bill does is try to prevent that for women seeking an abortion, and to ensure that they have the same dignity and privacy they would at every other medical procedure.

"That doesn’t mean Members should stop asking tough questions about the Bill. But I ask that Members take the opportunity to protect women at a time when many are already incredibly vulnerable, and all are, at the very least, making an enormously personal decision that should not be subject to unwanted comment from strangers.”

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