EVERY generation grows up looking at the past with a degree of horror and disbelief. We are appalled that women didn’t have the vote, that minorities have been legally treated as lesser people for generations, or even that those who came before us predominantly lived in abject poverty.

With each generation comes an opportunity to resolve inequalities they have inherited from the last – and this week our Scottish Parliament did just that when MSPs passed a long-overdue bill to introduce buffer zones around clinics providing abortion services.

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill will prevent any protests or vigils taking place within 200m (656ft) of such clinics. These buffer zones will be applied to both pro and anti-choice campaign groups and they do not have any impact on protests or activity taking place anywhere else.

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Whether you agree with abortions or not, is entirely irrelevant. If you do not agree with abortions, then do not have one. No-one is forcing anyone to have an abortion.

No-one has the right to dictate what someone else does with their body, which is exactly what those who protest outside clinics are trying to dictate.

The largest recorded anti-choice protest took place outside Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow in 2018 with 200 people outside the maternity unit entrance. Opponents of buffer zones claim these gatherings are silent prayer vigils which simply seek to counsel anyone thinking of having an abortion.

But this deliberate targeting of the maternity unit not only lacked common decency, it also targeted those who were enduring pregnancy complications and miscarriages. It targeted those at what is one undoubtedly one of the hardest moments of their lives.

I have previously warned of the dangers of dark money from evangelical, religious, and far-right organisations in the US being used to fund culture wars in Britain. So, it is no surprise that there is great discomfort at the fact that most of these anti-choice gatherings are organised by a group founded in Texas called 40 Days for Life.

On the home page on its website, it has a celebratory running tally of the number of clinics it has forced to close and the number of medical workers they have forced to quit their jobs.

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For far too long, pregnant people and healthcare professionals have had to endure judgment and intimidation as they receive and provide lifesaving healthcare.

In Scotland, 70% of women of reproductive age live in a health board that has been targeted by anti-choice groups in the past five years. Some of the loudest so-called defenders of women’s rights are either notably silent on this issue or, worse, they actively campaign to roll back reproductive rights. All while vilifying the LGBTQ+ community under the guise of defending women’s rights.

While I am proud that Gillian Mackay’s bill was passed by 118 votes to one, we cannot take this progress for granted. As the party of government in Scotland, the SNP should be embarrassed that the only vote against this bill was cast by one of their own.

I know from personal experience the number of politicians who would quietly roll back reproductive rights if they thought they could. For as long as political parties treat issues of equality as “issues of conscience” then it will allow those who oppose equality to slip through undetected until it is too late.

The label of “conscience issues” provides a get-out-of-jail-free card for politicians who are comfortable with discrimination. There are no issues of conscience – there are only issues and all issues require a conscience if they are to be tackled effectively.

It may be easy to judge inequalities of the past with the clarity of the present but this week was the perfect example of why it is so important that we in the present also stop and reflect on what direction we are travelling as a society, and whether we are doing enough to build a better world. for the next generation.