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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Protecting Women’s Access to Health Care

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon convened a summit on abortion care in Edinburgh, aimed at ensuring that women can access health services without fear, harassment or intimidation.

The aim of the summit was to establish what can be done to improve access to abortion services generally, and in particular to provide an effective legislative mechanism to establish abortion buffer zones.

It also sought to identify immediate, short term actions to protect women from harassment or intimidation outside hospitals and sexual health clinics.

It brought together representatives from local government, third sector organisations, Police Scotland, the NHS and campaigners, and will include cross-party representation.

The First Minister said:

“This summit is an important opportunity to reaffirm women’s autonomy and right to choose.

“It comes at a particularly important time given the overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States.

“The summit will consider in general terms what needs to be done to improve access to abortion services, including second trimester abortions, in Scotland.

“However, its main and most immediate focus will be on mechanisms to establish effective buffer zones.

“It starts from the clear view that women must be able to access health care, including abortion services, free of harassment or intimidation.

“The proper focus for anyone protesting abortion should be Parliament and lawmakers – not hospitals or sexual health clinics.

“Gatherings of this kind create additional stress for anyone using these facilities, for any purpose, and for those who work in them.

“But for women accessing abortion services, the upset, distress and fear that they cause can be profound.

“At what is already a very stressful time, women are being forced to see or make their way past these groups on the way in.

“And once they’re inside, on top of everything else, there’s the knowledge that they may have to see them again on the way out.

“In my view, the current situation is unacceptable, and it’s one which we must address as a matter of urgency.

“I am determined that we do so.

“There are issues that we need to solve to establish buffer zones through legislation but if we work together in a spirit of solidarity, I am confident we can find a way.”

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