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Calls for buffer zones at Scottish abortion clinics as landmark US case is threatened

The US Supreme Court could overturn the landmark Roe v Wade case (Dominic McGrath/PA)
The US Supreme Court could overturn the landmark Roe v Wade case (Dominic McGrath/PA)

Calls are growing for buffer zones to be introduced around Scotland’s abortion clinics after it emerged a landmark ruling in the US looks set to be overturned.

A report by Politico, based on leaked documents, has suggested the US Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade case that legalised abortion nationwide.

A decision to overrule the landmark decision would lead to abortion bans in roughly half of the country’s states.

The reports have caused outrage on both sides of the Atlantic, with politicians in Scotland ramping up calls for the Scottish Government to install buffer zones to prevent protesters from being able to pressure people using abortion services.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said removing the legal right to abortion only puts women at risk (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Buffer zones would ban certain activities that are designed to deter or prevent women from accessing abortion care within 150 metres of the entrance to a clinic or hospital.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, responded to the reports from the US on Tuesday, saying that the “right of women to decide what happens to our own bodies is a human right”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “Experience tells us that removing the legal right to abortion doesn’t stop abortions happening – it just makes them unsafe and puts the lives of women at much greater risk.”

But Scottish Liberal Democrats leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said the First Minister and women’s health minister, Maree Todd, have “stalled and dissembled” over buffer zones “for too long”.

Alex Cole-Hamilton
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton says there should be no further delay on buffer zones (Lesley Martin/PA)

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “We must make sure that we protect the rights of women to access safe and legal abortion in the UK without harassment.

“For years, campaigners, including myself, have been calling for buffer zones around abortion clinics to ensure that people in a time of need are not faced with intimidation and shame at a time when they deserve support and empathy.

“No one thinks that Nicola Sturgeon and Maree Todd have anything in common with the US Republican party and its legal assault on personal freedoms, but the fact is that they have stalled and dissembled over these buffer zones for far too long.”

Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said the leaked documents are “horrifying”, adding that overturning the ruling would be a “massive, massive step backwards” for the rights of women.

He said he was “not for a second suggesting that the Scottish Government would associate themselves in any way” with the events in the US, but said “dither and delay” on the introduction of buffer zones “is not acceptable”.

Mr Sarwar added: “I think there is a clear majority in the population that is supportive of creating these buffer zones, and we should have no delay. We should just get on with it.”