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Campaign for abortion clinic buffer zones goes nationwide

Back Off Scotland, a campaign started to implement a 150-meter buffer-zone around clinics providing abortion services, has this week launched their first nation-wide petition.

The petition has now gained over 2,200 signatures and aims to gather a total of 10,000 throughout Scotland, in order to put pressure on the Scottish government to enact legislation.

After both Edinburgh and Glasgow council indicated they were unable to implement legislation such as this without support from the government, Edinburgh councillors voted twelve to five in support of the buffer zones, and stated they were willing to work with the Scottish government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to reach an agreement.

Back Off Scotland was established after anti-choice protestors harassed and intimidated people going for abortion services at Chalmers Sexual Health Centre in Edinburgh.

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Its 150-meter buffer zone goal aims to prevent anyone trying to access abortion healthcare from having to come into close proximity to those holding so-called anti-choice ‘vigils’.

Previously, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) had recorded 2,500 incidents of staff or patients having a negative experience with protestors within Britain since 2014, with the recorded number of incidents likely to be much lower than the actual number due to some people not reporting problems.

Alice Murray, a Back Off Scotland campaigner who faced protesters when seeking an abortion at Chalmers Street Hospital in Edinburgh, told The Student:

“I attended the clinic alone, meaning my only point of contact was the protestors. They made me feel isolated and my safety questioned.

“There were multiple protestors there on a small pavement with placards and posters, their presence was very intimidating.”

On 21 February, the campaign went nationwide in order to encompass all of Scotland, where seven hospitals have been affected by protests such as these.

This came just days before the Texas-founded group 40 Days for Life, which holds two sets of 40-day protests a year, began their Lent protests outside the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and 13 other clinics around the UK.

Speaking to The Student, Emma Ahlert responded to questions on the importance of these buffer zones:

“At the moment, local councils can only ensure what’s called a PSPO or Public Spaces Protection Orders, which last three years at a time.

“This has been successful and impactful in places like Ealing, however we believe it is ultimately unsustainable to launch substantial campaigns every three years.

“We want to enact national legislation that enshrines people’s right to choose what is best for their body.

“Back Off Scotland aim to gain enough signatures and recognition to have a bill passed in parliament which would make buffer zones legal across all health centres offering abortion or sexual health services in Scotland.”

Ahlert also commented on the role of universities in providing better access to abortion healthcare, saying:

“Just as it remains integral to educate young people about contraception, it is equally important to educate people about realistic options they have if they become pregnant.

“Oftentimes, conversations surrounding abortion are steeped in shame, blame, judgment, and coercion.

“We believe universities should absolutely work to destigmatise abortion services and prioritise choice.”

Image: Dogwoodfire via Wikipedia

Image shows the Chalmers Hospital