The anti-abortion lobby now sees Scotland as an easy target, with campaigners following the Texas playbook. Last September, I raised concerns with the First Minister and highlighted the urgent need for protest-free buffer zones at abortion services. Does she regret the fact that swift action has not been taken in that respect? Can she also tell us when telemedicine for early abortion will be made permanent, as Scotland now trails behind England and Wales on that important healthcare matter?
On behalf of the Scottish Government, but also as First Minister and personally, I say that we are committed to ensuring that all women are able to access timely abortions without judgment. I condemn in the strongest possible terms any attempts to intimidate women as they choose to access abortion services. Of course, people have a right to protest against abortion, but they should do so outside Parliament, where the laws are made, and not outside a hospital where women are undergoing abortions, in the course of which they often experience extreme distress.
The buffer zones working group has been meeting, and it is looking at ways of preventing any patients from feeling harassed or intimidated when they access healthcare. There are complex legal issues involved here—there is no way of avoiding saying that. We must make sure that the approach that we choose is consistent with the law. I know that the Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport is committed to seeing whether that work can be accelerated—I think that she might have said as much to Parliament earlier today. We will keep Parliament updated on that work.
I say again to those who take a different view on abortion from the one that I and many people in this chamber take: by all means protest—you have a democratic right to do that—but come and protest at Parliament. Do not intimidate women who seek access to abortion at hospitals.