Abortion activists have hit out at the Scottish Government after the Women’s Health Minister said that legislating nationwide buffer zones was ‘not on the cards’.
Maree Todd MSP told representatives of activist group Back Off Scotland that Holyrood politicians were reluctant to make changes to the law as they would likely face legal action from pro-life organisations.
The group seeks to prevent pro-lifers from praying or offering advice to pregnant women within 150m of an abortion clinic.
Last month, the Scottish Government announced radical proposals to make abortion easier, and committed to find ways to block offers of help for women and prayer near abortion centres.
Currently, individual councils can set up buffer zones, but the Women’s Health Minister has told activists that the Scottish Government would not roll out the zones nationally as it fears an unwinnable free speech legal battle with pro-life groups.
A Scottish Government spokesperson later added that it supported “any local authority who wishes to use bye-laws to establish buffer zones” and that it would “invite them to do so as the swiftest way to have such zones enacted”.
But activists said such measures were not good enough, claiming the matter is not an issue of freedom of speech as offering prayer and assistance to women is “inherently violent” and “inappropriate in a healthcare setting”.
Earlier this year, the City of Edinburgh Council backed a move to impose buffer zones just two years after rejecting the last attempt.
Following a small petition submitted by pro-abortion activists, the Council sought to introduce a such a zone around the entrance to an abortion referral centre in the city.
Margaret Akers, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the attempts were: “unjustified”, adding that they would “undermine freedom of speech” and “fail women as well”.