In Scotland, the Catholic Church sounds the alarm about a bill which, if it is adopted, would drastically restrict freedom of expression for those engaged in the fight for life.
In Scotland, on paper, abortion is always a crime according to the 1967 law, but in practice access to it is expanded for diverse reasons up to the 24th week of pregnancy—around 6 months.
The new Prime Minister Humza Yousaf—the first Muslim to preside over an administration in the history of the kingdom of thistles—shortly after his coming to power in the spring of 2023, publicly announced his intent to remove all abortion restrictions in effect.
This is a danger pointed out, in the wake of the elections in March, by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). “Scotland could end up with the most extreme pro-abortion legislation in Europe,” warned Michael Robinson, the organization’s Executive Director.
The bill that was recently filed by the environmentalists of the Scottish Green Party in the Scottish Parliament will surprise no one: it aims to make illegal any form of “influence” or pro-life demonstration within 200 meters of an establishment where abortion is provided.
This would be—if it is adopted—the most restrictive legal provision against defenders of the right to life of the unborn.
“Gillian Mackay’s proposals are the very definition of intolerance; they would crush and curtail expressions of speech, religion, association, and conscience,” said a representative of the Catholic Church in Scotland in a piece published on October 9, 2023.
And for good reason; the silent prayer of pro-life people could take on a criminal dimension beyond the perimeter defined by the law—a perimeter which seems destined to grow in the apparent intent of the legislator.
“This legislation goes further than any buffer zone legislation in other jurisdictions, creating a larger buffer zone than anywhere else in the world and giving the Scottish government powers to extend these zones without limit,” emphasizes Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for the Right to Life UK.
For Robinson, in practice, the bill would limit access for pregnant women unable to keep their children to solutions provided by associations that defend life.
Not to mention the fact that the proposal brought by the government is far from being the first concern of Scottish voters: according to a public opinion poll by the Savanta ComRes institute, only 30% of respondents support the introduction of buffer zones around establishments practicing abortion.
“It creates an offense for being publicly pro-life,” exclaims Catherine Robinson, who is shocked. “No one else is penalized for hanging the flag of their favorite football [soccer] team from their window, or having a ‘Vote Labour’ sign, but if an individual or a church wants to display a sign, from within their own property, which says ‘Pregnant? We can help,’ they may be guilty of violating this buffer zone legislation.”