Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill

Closes 20 Dec 2023

Opened 27 Oct 2023


A note on language 

The wording used in this call for views mirrors the language of the documents accompanying the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Scotland Bill. As the Policy Memorandum states, terms such as “people who access or provide services”, “anti-abortion”, and “protester” were used to describe actions rather than motivations.   

About the Bill 

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Scotland Bill proposes to create “safe access zones” around places where abortion services are provided. These places are referred to as “protected premises” throughout the Bill and this call for views.  

The Bill is not concerned with whether or not abortion services should be legal, and does not propose any changes to abortion law in Scotland.  

Normally, safe access zones will consist of the protected premises, their public grounds and any other public land within 200 metres of the protected premises. However, the Bill includes provisions to extend or reduce the 200-metre radius of a safe access zone as needed.  

The Bill makes it an offence for people within a safe access zone to act in a way that might prevent a person from getting an abortion, or make them feel harassed while they are accessing abortion services. This might include holding up signs with anti-abortion messages, protesting in relation to abortion, or blocking the entrance to a protected premises.  

The Bill also makes it an offence for someone within 200 metres of protected premises but not on public land (and so not within the safe access zone) to act in a way that might result in pressure or distress for someone within a safe access zone who is accessing abortion services. This could include displaying anti-abortion messaging from a balcony or window that can be seen from inside the safe access zone, or using a loudspeaker to protest in a way that can be heard from within a safe access zone. People who are convicted of offences in relation to this Bill would be subject to a fine. 

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee are looking at the details of the Bill, and want to know what people think about them. 

Knowing your views will help Members assess how to improve the proposed law, and whether the draft Bill should be passed into law by the Scottish Parliament. 

Share your views

We are seeking your views on the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill 

You can either complete: 

  • A short survey to provide general views and comments on the Bill overall.

  • A structured call for evidence to provide detailed comments on individual provisions in the Bill. 

Please note that we can only accept submissions via the online platform. If you require assistance to share your views via the platform for accessibility reasons, please contact the clerks. We will not accept submissions of views in any other form (e.g. email, Twitter etc) unless this has been agreed with the Clerks for accessibility reasons.

Short survey

If you wish to provide a short response with your views on the Bill overall, please complete the survey.

Easy Read version - you can print out a copy of this

Easy Read version - you can fill this out online

Complete the British Sign Language (BSL) version of the survey

Fiosrachadh mun Cho-chomhairle: Gàidhlig

Read the questions in the short survey

  • Do you agree with the purpose of the Bill? 
  • Do you agree that the Safe Access Zone radius around protected premises should be set at 200 metres? 
  • Do you think the offences in the Bill are proportionate?
  • Do you have any further comments about the Bill?  

Structured call for evidence  

If you to provide detailed comments on individual provisions in the Bill, please share your views in the structured call for evidence. 

Read the questions in the structured call for evidence

  • Do you agree with the purpose of the Bill?
  • Do you agree that the Safe Access Zone radius around protected premises should be set at 200 metres? 
  • What is your view on the proposed processes within the Bill to extend or reduce Safe Access Zone distances around protected premises in the event that 200m is not appropriate?
  • Do you agree with the definition of “protected premises” outlined in the Bill and its accompanying documents? 
  • Do you feel that the penalty for offences related to the Bill is appropriate? 
  • Do you feel the criminal offences created by the Bill are proportionate in terms of the activities they cover? 
  • What are your views on the impact of the Bill upon the rights enshrined under Articles 8, 9, 10, and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights?
  • Do you think that the Bill’s intended policy outcomes could be achieved through another means, such as existing legislation? 
  • Do you have any further comments about the Bill?

We welcome written views in English, Gaelic, Scots or any other language.

The call for views closes on 20 December 2023.

Further information on the Committee’s approach to scrutiny in relation to this Bill and how it will handle information can be found below.

Written statement on handling of information and evidence


Gillian Mackay MSP introduced the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill (“The Bill”) to the Scottish Parliament on 5 October 2023. 

The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee has been designated as the lead committee for Stage 1 consideration of the Bill. Under the Parliament’s Standing Orders Rule 9.6.3(a), it is for the lead committee to report to the Parliament on the general principles of the Bill. 

Given the potentially sensitive nature of the issues it anticipates exploring as part of its scrutiny of this Bill, the Committee wishes to set out publicly its overall approach to scrutiny, and more detail on its approach to the handling and processing of data it receives as part of the scrutiny process. 

Scope of the Bill and remit of the Committee 

The Bill sets up safe access zones around health care settings that provide abortion services. It also gives Scottish Ministers a power to set up zones around places where treatments or services related to abortion services are provided.   

Given the Bill is solely about the setting up of safe access zones, other issues such as the right to access abortions or time limit for accessing abortions are outwith scope.    

Under the Abortion Act 1967, which currently applies to Scotland, an abortion can legally be accessed up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions can be conducted at any point in pregnancy if there is a significant risk to the life of the pregnant person, or evidence of foetal abnormality. The Abortion Act 1967 did not decriminalise abortion, but rather established conditions under which abortion can be performed. Abortion procedures performed outwith these conditions would remain subject to Scottish criminal law. Abortion law was devolved to Scotland under Section 53 of the Scotland Act 2016.  

Amendments to the law on abortion (including the common law or the Abortion Act 1967 as it extends to Scotland) are not within scope of this Bill. 

The Committee cannot, as part of its scrutiny, address or explore issues which are outwith the scope of the Bill as outlined above.  Accordingly, submission which deal with matters outwith the scope of the Bill will not be accepted. 

The Committee’s scrutiny 

The Committee will take a balanced and thorough approach to its scrutiny, taking time to consider all views.  

The Committee’s approach to scrutiny, and subsequent handling of evidence, will be as follows: 

Written evidence  

The Committee will issue two calls for written evidence in October 2023. 

Both calls for written evidence will be published on Citizens Space, a digital platform used to undertake Scottish Parliament consultations.  

The calls for evidence will take the form of the following:  

  • A short survey, for all those wishing to provide general views and comments on the Bill overall.  
  • A structured call for evidence for those who wish to provide detailed comments on individual provisions in the Bill.  

Short survey 

The short survey is comprised of predominantly quantitative tick-box questions. The responses to these questions will be presented as charts to provide a visual snapshot of the opinions of survey respondents.  

The short survey also contains a small number of free text boxes to enable respondents to make further comment. The Committee anticipates that it may receive a high volume of responses to the short survey, therefore a sample of the qualitative data collected in response to these questions will be analysed using thematic analysis to develop an understanding of respondents’ views. 

Individual responses to the short survey will not be published. Instead, a summary of responses will be published. 

Structured call for evidence 

The structured call for evidence consists of predominantly qualitative questions. The responses gathered from this survey will be analysed using thematic analysis, and a summary of evidence will be produced by SPICe. All submissions to the detailed call for views will be published, with the exception of those that contain defamatory or offensive language; do not comply with GDPR requirements (contain third party personal data); have been accepted on a confidential (“not for publication”) basis in accordance with paragraph 16 below; or are not relevant to the scope of the Bill as outlined above. Submissions which relate to matters which are outwith the remit of the Committee cannot be accepted. 

Should the Committee receive a high volume of responses to the detailed survey, all responses will be published, and a sample will be selected for analysis by SPICe, with priority afforded to responses from stakeholders directly affected by the Bill. 

Anyone submitting written evidence to this consultation can request that their evidence be anonymised or that it should be treated as “confidential” (not for publication) by contacting the clerks at SAZBill@parliament.scot

Factors for both surveys 

The Committee will redact personal or other identifying information in material it publishes where it considers it necessary to do so to comply with data protection requirements.  

Submissions which contain offensive or abusive language will not be considered/published. Defamatory comments will not be published. 

If the Committee receives a number of responses which are substantially the same in content in either of the calls for evidence, it will publish the response once with a list of respondents that submitted. 

It should be noted that the responses to both the short and detailed call for evidence are not intended to offer a representative sample of broader public opinion, but rather to reflect the views of those who responded. 

The written calls for evidence will close on 20 December 2023 and no extensions will be granted.  

The Committee will only accept submissions via the online platform. If you require assistance to share your views via the platform for accessibility reasons, please contact the clerks at SAZBill@parliament.scot, and they will add your submission via the platform on your behalf.   

Analysis of the Committee’s calls for evidence will be published ahead of oral evidence being taken. 

Informal scrutiny 

The Committee plans to undertake informal engagement on the Bill, particularly where formal engagement may not be a stakeholder’s preference1.  

This engagement will be undertaken following the written call for evidence closing and before oral evidence takes place.  

This informal scrutiny will enable Members to get an early insight into some of the issues and better understand them by hearing directly from individuals and organisations affected by the provisions in the Bill. 

Oral evidence 

The Committee will take oral evidence on the Bill from a range of stakeholders and groups.  

The Committee is already aware of a number of stakeholders it would like to hear from in relation to the Bill.  

Additional witnesses will be determined through the Committee’s calls for written evidence and programme of informal scrutiny. The Committee will decide on any additional stakeholders in January 2024 and invitations for oral evidence will be issued before the Committee publishes the analysis of the calls for views. 

General considerations 

The Committee will publish all documents as packages, after making any necessary redactions, rather than individually as they are received. 

If the Committee seeks evidence directly from individuals, it will do so with due regard to data protection requirements including observing principles of fairness and human rights. The Committee will consider what processing is necessary, proportionate and fair on a case-by-case basis, according to the individual circumstances of the data subject concerned. 

The Committee will collect and retain only the minimum amount of personal data needed to fulfil its remit.  

For more information or queries regarding the Committee's scrutiny of the Bill, please contact the Clerks to the Committee at SAZBill@parliament.scot.  

Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, October 2023 


  • HSCS