THE fight over abortion rights in the USA may feel a hundred miles away from Scotland, but the same battle is being fought on our doorstep.

It’s no coincidence that as pandemic restrictions eased, women’s health clinics across the country started to see an increase in anti-abortion activists holding vigils and protests.

The fact that some of these protestors are funded and recruited by American right-wing religious groups should send alarm bells ringing.

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40 Days For Life, who describe themselves as “the worlds largest grassroots movement to end abortion” and were established in Texas, rallied around 100 protestors to stand outside of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow last month. 

This led to 76 consultants writing to public health minister Maree Todd stating that the group were causing intimidation and harassment.

Back Off Scotland have been running a campaign to introduce the buffer zones in a bid to stop this from happening, but the debate appears to have stalled.

Now more than ever it feels as if we are a few steps away from women in the West being forced to live the Handmaid’s Tale in real life. It has already happened in many places in the world - there are 24 countries where abortion is illegal. This equates to around 90 million (5%) women of reproductive age living under those strict rules.

Women’s rights are constantly at risk - you only have to look at the swiftness of the Taliban removing women from positions of power, from their education, from their livelihoods, in the wake of the takeover of Afghanistan to see how fast it can happen.

The National: Anti-abortion protestors holding a vigilAnti-abortion protestors holding a vigil

Why did the Roe vs Wade story cause such fury and what is it?

EARLIER this week a draft supreme court decision was leaked to Politico. It appeared to show the court was in favour of ruling in favour of Mississippi in a case over whether the state could outlaw nearly all abortions at and after 15 weeks.

This is a direct challenge to the Roe v Wade ruling in 1973, which guaranteed abortion rights are enshrined in law up until 24 weeks of gestation. The Supreme Court decision from earlier this week appeared to be overturning this. It read: “It is time to heed the constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

It is possible that the Supreme Court won’t actually vote through the change, as the leak was only a draft, but if it does indeed overturn Roe vs Wade then it’s expected that 26 states (predominantly in the south) could move quickly to implement restrictions on women’s bodily autonomy. Since 1994 only three other countries have rolled back abortion rights: Poland, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

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The National: More than 100 anti-abortion protestors outside of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in GlasgowMore than 100 anti-abortion protestors outside of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow (Image: PA)

Why do women want buffer zones established outside of abortion clinics in Scotland?

THERE’S a pretty simple answer - women don’t want to be intimidated and harassed when they are going through a private medical procedure.

Not only that, but women can be seeking abortions for a variety of reasons - and ultimately it should be up to them whether or not they go ahead with it.

The First Minister has said that human rights laws are slowing down the Scottish government taking action, and that a working group is under way.

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There is obviously the issue of balancing the right to protest with the rights of the women seeking medical assistance, but we have to draw the line somewhere.

Installing a 150m (500ft) buffer zones would give women, who could be there because of a variety of reasons including rape, the ability to breathe when going through something so personal.

The Greens' Gillian Mackay is consulting on bringing a members bill forward on the issue, and Northern Ireland brought in buffer zones in March this year, so the fight isn't over just yet.