Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Scotland Bill

thumbnail of Abortion Safe Zones Response Dec 23This is our response to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee’s call for views on Gillian Mackay MSP’s Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Scotland Bill.

We welcome this Bill and the Scottish Government support for it.

UNISON Scotland strongly backed a motion at the STUC Congress in Dundee in April 2023 which supported the Bill’s aims in calling for buffer zones outside health care centres providing abortion services.

It is entirely wrong that women should be subject to criticism, distress, intimidation, harassment and abuse, which can come from some of the kinds of anti-abortion protests held as women seek healthcare which is their right. Health care workers providing this essential service in clinics, hospitals and other facilities are also impacted and often harassed during such protests.

As UNISON’s Brenda Aitchison said in the STUC debate: “All women should be free from harassment and intimidation whilst accessing health services…

“Our bodies, our choices, free from harassment.”

It is now long overdue to create safe access zones around all places providing abortion services in Scotland, primarily to support and protect women accessing healthcare, but also to protect NHS and other staff.

It is crucial of course to trade unionists that the legislation enables safe access zones while specifically excluding any restrictions from being used to limit trade union activities, including protests, pickets and wider action in support of industrial disputes in healthcare settings.