Scotland could enact the world’s most extreme buffer zone to protect abortion clinics

The Scottish Parliament is considering “the world’s most extreme buffer zone law”. Gillian MacKay MSP’s Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill would impose 200-metre zones around hospitals and clinics (and potentially abortion pill-dispensing GP centres and pharmacies) in which pro-life activity, including silent vigils, is banned.

That’s about the length of two football fields.

In England and Wales 150-metre zones have been legalised, and 100 metres in Northern Ireland. Scotland’s law is draconian.

Within the Scottish zones – and just outside – actions likely to exert influence regarding abortion would be forbidden, including signs visible from within the zones, and private conversations heard there.  

A Scottish Parliament Policy Memorandum speaks of distress caused by anti-abortion campaigners but it fails to describe the distressing and indeed lethal process of abortion. It emphasises the need to protect “healthcare professionals”, even though harassment is already illegal. It stresses the need for healthcare for women suffering sexual violence and rape, but abortion is not some sort of cure for sexual violence -- rather it provides protection for rapists and abusers.

The Memorandum acknowledges the zones’ impact on the right to thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, assembly and association. But it insists with Pollyannish optimism that the law will be selectively applied and that the European Court of Human Rights protects the privacy of clinic users and staff. It claims women have the right to access abortion like “any other form of medical treatment” -- although this “medical treatment” involves killing.

It seems Scotland is aiming for an even more aggressive law, while seeing these zones, with their blanket ban on free expression, as “safe means of offering protection” – but not to babies.

The law is also future proofed: abortion providers may apply for extensions, and there is no stipulated limit to their boundaries. The Memorandum admits that powers to deal with anti-social behaviour already exist, but under this law, it is not necessary for individuals to cause offence/alarm/distress to find themselves criminalised.  Having decided that any criticism of abortion, whether explicit or implicit, is harmful, its framers would outlaw harmless individuals because their behaviour might harm someone, somewhere, sometime. And fines of up to £10,000 can be imposed on summary conviction, or on indictment, an unlimited fine.

Double standards abound. The law will not prevent demonstrations -- including picketing -- by other groups. But the Scottish Human Rights Commission believes it “will have positive impacts for young people, disabled people, trans people, women, pregnant people and new mothers, women of colour and lesbian and bisexual women and men who attend these services”.  

Similarly, a Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment found the law would “have a positive effect on children and young people by reducing potential distress for children and young people who access abortion care, attend appointments with parents or carers, or generally access healthcare settings where anti-abortion activity might take place”. However, they fail to note the negative effect of discrimination against children yet unborn, purely on the basis of their place of residence: the womb.

The Scottish Parliament’s Summary of the Bill states that it could also cover “pro-abortion activity”, but this law targets peaceful pro-life activity, while vociferous and even violent pro-abortion protests are tolerated.  

Right to Life notes that this attempt to impose illimitable censorship zones is opposed by a majority of Scots (77.13%). Nevertheless, the Health, Social Care, and Sport Committee has unanimously agreed to its “overall principles”. As RTL notes, it is “a direct attack on free expression and public association based on viewpoint” and “is entirely unnecessary insofar as harassment and intimidation are already illegal.”

No doubt if these peaceful pro-lifers aggressively demonstrated in support of terror organisations, their right to free speech would be firmly upheld, regardless of any distress caused.

Police Scotland have found no evidence of pro-lifers involved in criminality or abuse. “Harassment” has been redefined solely in the case of abortion to mean anything short of hearty approval. The help provided by pro-life vigils, for which many women have expressed gratitude, is ignored by opponents, while the BBC and the Guardian are forced to illustrate their “buffer zones” stories with pictures of pro-abortion protests.



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Scotland is in danger of becoming one big exclusion zone in which nobody may disagree with abortion and/or offer help to needy pregnant women. And once all visible and audible expressions of non-agreement with abortion have been outlawed, perhaps, as in Orwell’s 1984, they will outlaw “face crime” -- banning eye-rolling, sighing and any signs of sorrow.

Already pro-lifers have been bracketed with “extremists” and buffer zones are effective propaganda, signalling that pro-lifers should not be trusted by women.

The Memorandum claims abortion care is especially important for needy women, but such women often believe they will receive counselling and help from abortion providers. Instead, they are put straight on an abortion conveyor belt, while real care is offered (and paid for) by the allegedly uncaring pro-life movement. But providing authentic choice would damage the “right to choose”.

Despite harassment allegedly deterring women, thousands of abortions take place every year, with numbers continually growing as abortion pills are sent through the post without face-to-face appointments.

Regardless, abortion campaigners seek to criminalise abortion critics, while others seek to decriminalise abortion itself.

 This Bill will not protect women, but rather those legally empowered to kill their unborn children. However, the equally controversial Scottish hate crime law, which appropriately enough came into force on April 1st, is under tremendouspressure, offering hope that this draconian buffer zone bill – another instance of woke fascism -- may prove to be the last battle in the war against civil liberties, and indeed the war against life, being fought in Scotland the brave.  

Do abortion clinics need a 200-metre buffer zone? Tell us what you think in the comment box below.

Ann Farmer writes from the United Kingdom.

Image credits: Scottish protesters / STV News screenshot


Showing 6 reactions

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  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-29 09:01:18 +1000
    Malcolm, the abortion rate would be even higher without those condoms. I know pro-lifers don’t like permanent sterilization, but making vasectomies and tubal ligation more readily accessible would do wonders for reducing unwanted pregnancies.

    It’s certainly much easier and effective than expecting couples to abstain from sex completely.
  • Malcolm McLean
    commented 2024-04-29 08:59:03 +1000
    Paul, Condoms are already given out for free by numerous agencies. Abortion is not a rational act. It does not respond to that type of intervention.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-29 08:43:43 +1000
    Malcolm, instead of complaining about a law that prevents harassment, you could work to reduce the need for abortion. You could make contraception more readily available. You could provide free contraception and sex education to as many low-income individuals as possible.

    By reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, you would also be reducing the number of abortions.
  • Malcolm McLean
    commented 2024-04-29 08:33:23 +1000
    OK. The 200 metre zone is one in which peaceful protest is not allowed and it is now openly admitted that it is not allowed. So pro-life must say that within that zone, anything goes, and pro-life sympathisers are no longer under any obligation to obey the law. Any law whatsoever.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2024-04-26 14:36:04 +1000
    Millions starve daily because of capitalism. Having biological children isn’t financially viable for couples or sustainable in the long-term.

    Adding to the population isn’t going to help anyone.
  • Ann Farmer
    published this page in The Latest 2024-04-26 10:30:14 +1000