Safe access to healthcare is not up for debate

Buffer zones will ensure that people can access reproductive healthcare safely and without intimidation.

Everyone should be able access healthcare free from fear that they will be met with judgement and shaming, said Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay as part of her evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee. 

The Bill, which Ms Mackay has introduced, will create 200 metre safe access zones, or ‘buffer zones’, to stop anti-choice campaigners from targeting hospitals or other abortion service providers.

In her opening remarks to the Committee, Ms Mackay said: “By passing this Bill, the Committee and Parliament can make a real difference to the lives of women, and send an unequivocal message that access to healthcare is not up for debate. 

“I know abortion is an emotive issue – in this Parliament, as in the rest of the country, there are people with diametrically opposed views. I do not expect that to change.

“However, this Bill is not and never has been about abortion. It is about the right and ability of women to access the healthcare they need, free from fear that they will be met with judgement and shaming, with placards and signs, and with groups of people telling them they are wrong.”

Ms Mackay continued: “I accept that many of the people who participate in anti-abortion activity outside hospitals do not believe their actions make it harder for women to access healthcare – that, in fact, they believe they help women.

“Without being too blunt, those beliefs do not change the reality that some women find their activities distressing and alarming.”

Ms Mackay added: “Because no matter why they go, they’ve made a very personal choice. and no matter how much progress has been made, there is still stigma around abortion, and for some women, a real sense of shame.

“Going at all can take courage. That shouldn’t be compounded with fear of being identified or exposed. And that fear may have an even greater impact in remote or rural areas, where anonymity is often harder to come by at the best of times.

“Given all that, abortion should be the very last healthcare service we allow to be subject to unwanted influence or harassment. The very last area, as opposed to the only one.”

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