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Abortion summit must lead to buffer zones ‘at pace’ – Lib Dems

Activists protested the Supreme Court’s ruling in Edinburgh. (Katharine Hay/PA)
Activists protested the Supreme Court’s ruling in Edinburgh. (Katharine Hay/PA)

Urgent legislation to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics must be announced at an emergency summit chaired by the First Minister, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have said.

Campaigners have been calling for the intervention amid a rise in anti-abortion protests outside hospitals and clinics in Scotland.

In a letter to Nicola Sturgeon earlier this year, campaigners warned a “lack of political action” would make abortion clinics feel “they do not have the support to provide care women need”.

The summit, being hosted by Ms Sturgeon on Monday, comes in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Roe v Wade case, which legalised abortion in America.

It will now be up to individual states whether to permit abortions.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, has urged the Scottish Government to take “robust action” to protect women.

He said: “On Friday, the unthinkable was announced: millions of women will lose the right to an abortion in the US. We must take action now.

“For almost four years I have joined campaign groups in pressing the Scottish Government to stop dragging their feet and ensure that women feel safe when seeking abortion treatment.

“This long overdue summit is a vital chance to introduce robust action that can give women the protection they need more than ever.”

The summit, to take place in Edinburgh, will hear from women with “lived experiences” of abortion and campaign groups Back Off Scotland, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Rape Crisis Scotland.

Mr Cole-Hamilton, who will attend the summit alongside Labour’s Monica Lennon and Green MSP Gillian Mackay, added: “Now that the opportunity has finally arrived, I am categorical about what must be achieved at this summit.

Scottish local government elections
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton will be among attendees at the emergency summit on Monday (Lesley Martin/PA)

“The Government should commit to delivering buffer zones in government time and at pace so that women can access treatment without fear of intimidation or harassment.”

Following the Roe v Wade ruling, Ms Sturgeon wrote on Twitter: “One of the darkest days for women’s rights in my lifetime.

“Obviously the immediate consequences will be suffered by women in the US – but this will embolden anti-abortion & anti-women forces in other countries too.

“Solidarity doesn’t feel enough right now – but it is necessary.”

She also told Back Off Scotland she is an “ally” in its campaign for abortion rights.

She told the group on Twitter she is firmly on your side”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “There are issues we need to solve to achieve our shared objective of effective buffer zones – but if we work in a spirit of solidarity we’ll get there.”

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