A SECOND summit on abortion is being planned by the Scottish Government.

The event is taking place in August and will focus on how local authorities can implement so-called buffer zones outside clinics using local regulations to stop anti-choice activists harassing women through vigils and protests.

It comes after a similar event in June, hosted in Glasgow by the First Minister.

There has been a recent rise in anti-abortion protests outside abortion clinics across Scotland, with protesters holding up signs condemning women who terminate pregnancies.

Religious anti-choice activists also hold “vigils” outside places offering abortions, which are protected under the rights of freedom of expression and religion.

The National:

An exact date has not yet been set and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) and local authorities are involved in the planning, the Scottish Government said.

At the June summit, Nicola Sturgeon called on Glasgow and Edinburgh to introduce buffer-zones to restrict protest outside sensitive sites such as hospitals and sexual health clinics.

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She said at the time: “Glasgow and Edinburgh clearly are the councils where this is the biggest issue, although there are other health boards who are seeing these protests. 

“I don’t have the power to pick a council and say you will do this, but I’m certainly keen to have discussions with Cosla and with willing councils.

“Glasgow and Edinburgh I would hope would be round that table, to look at whether one or both of them might be prepared, with the right support and backing from the government, to use the byelaw powers that they have.

“Given the location of the most high-profile of these protests, Glasgow is an obvious place that you would want to see this.” 

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Greens MSP Gillian Mackay (above) is currently consulting on a bill she plans to introduce at Holyrood which would implement buffer zones across the country. 

But the plans are open to challenges on human rights grounds. 

It comes amid heightened tensions around abortion in the UK and globally as the UK Supreme Court hears a legal challenge against a bill in Northern Ireland which would ban anti-abortion protests outside clinics.

The US Supreme Court earlier this year overturned the historic Roe vs. Wade ruling, which enshrined the right to an abortion in federal law.

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Allowing abortions is now to be decided by states and many conservative areas have already severely curtailed access to termination services.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is planning a summit for late August. We are working with CoSLA and relevant local authorities to prepare for this.

“This meeting will focus on the potential for using byelaw powers to address issues at particular sites in order to prevent patients or staff feeling harassed or intimidated by abortion vigils or protests.

“The First Minister also proposed convening a further, broader summit on abortion rights around six months after the first abortion summit in June. This will be arranged after the Supreme Court judgment has been received in relation to the Northern Irish Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill.”