The Scottish Government has considered a number of options to meet the aims set out above. Full discussion of these, including the advantages and disadvantages of each, can be found in the Policy Memorandum. Differences within the structure of this document, and the Policy Memorandum, mean that the option numbers do not always correspond. Where numbering is different, this has been highlighted below.
The options were as follows:
Option 1: use of local authority byelaws
This option would rely on the use of local authority byelaws to create zones around premises providing abortion services where anti-abortion activity is documented.
Option 2: rely on existing legislation
This option would involve using existing primary legislation to manage anti-abortion activities outside premises providing abortion services.
Option 3: use of mediation and enhanced guidance
This option would seek common ground between those advocating for additional protection and those participating in anti-abortion activity, and rely on guidance to deliver lasting change.
Option 4: Introducing legislation to enable introduction of safe access zones on a case-by-case basis
This option would involve the establishment of a process for Health Boards or local authorities to seek safe access zones.
This option contained two models:
- Option 4A (Model A in Policy Memorandum): this would enable establishment of a zone upon application of an operator of particular premises and a decision from Ministers that a zone is necessary.
- Option 4B (Model B in Policy Memorandum): this would enable establishment of a zone upon notification from operators of particular premises without any need for Ministerial decision.
Option 5 (Model C in Policy Memorandum): introducing legislation to create automatic safe access zones
This option would enable automatic establishment of zones around all premises in Scotland that offer abortion services without any need for operator notice or Ministerial decision.
Sectors and Groups Affected
Extending protections around premises providing abortion services will affect the following groups:
- Those accessing abortion services. Any measure would be intended to directly increase protection from anti-abortion activity at the point where a service user is attempting to access services.
- Those providing or facilitating abortion services. As above, a direct impact of any measure would be to increase protection at the point where a service provider would be attempting to provide or facilitate services.
- Those accompanying individuals accessing or providing services. Although a measure to protect service users and providers from anti-abortion activity may not be intended to protect those accompanying them, by limiting anti-abortion activity at the point where services are used and accessed, accompanying individuals would also be protected from any harmful impacts of such activity.
- Those providing or accessing any other type of service provided at premises that offer abortion services. Although this would not be the intended purpose of any measure designed to protect those accessing abortion services, it would be an indirect effect that anyone attending a premises where abortion services were provided would also be protected from the effects of anti-abortion activity.
- Those participating in anti-abortion activity in the vicinity of abortion services. Any measure designed to protect service users and providers from anti-abortion activity at the point where services are accessed would unavoidably require to place some limits on such activity, and would thereby directly affect those who choose to participate in it at particular locations.
- Operators of all premises which provide abortion services within Scotland. All abortion services within Scotland are currently provided by territorial NHS Health Boards, with the exception of one private hospital which has been given approval by Scottish Ministers to provide abortion services. The Scottish Government has engaged with this private hospital throughout the development of the Bill as it will be directly affected, and it has expressed support for the proposal to date. As with all other providers, providers and users of services at these premises will be protected from the harmful impacts of anti-abortion activity taking place outside the premises, and this will in turn secure continued access to vital healthcare services.
- Enforcement agencies. Any measure that created new offences connected to anti-abortion activity carried on outside abortion services would impact the work of the justice system, including Police Scotland, and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
As noted above, there is also a possibility that the removal of anti-abortion activity from safe access zones and possible relocation to other areas could have an impact on businesses located near premises providing abortion services. However, as no businesses responded to the consultation, it is considered that any impact that did arise would be very small, and that the possibility is not a concern for businesses.
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