The government of Ontario is proposing legislation that would ensure all women can make their own decision safely and freely.
The Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017 was introduced on Oct.4 by Minister for the Status of Women, Indira Naidoo-Harris and the Attorney General, Yasir Naqri. If the bill is passed, women can access abortion services without fear of intimidation or harassment. ‘Safe Zones’ will be located around clinics and other abortion service centres. These zones will protect the privacy of women as well as the safety and security of proper health care services.
In safe zones, anti-abortion protests or intimidating individuals would be prohibited from lurking or giving out anti-abortion information. If the bills is passed it would also mean it would be illegal for clinic staff or other health professionals to harass women about their abortion choices.
“Our governments proposed safe access zones would protect a woman’s fundamental right to fair and equal access to safe abortion,” Harris said in a statement. “It an important step forward, and one that strengthens the rights of all women in Ontario. Women in our province should be able to access health care free form the threat or fear of violence or harassment.”
There are eight abortion clinics in Ontario and the safe access zones will extend from 50 to 150 meters around the clinic. Similar safe access zones have been functioning in other provinces such as British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson warmly welcomes this move as the city has had to deal with various protestors and anti-abortion activists who harass women as they leave the Morgentaler Clinic along Bank Street in downtown Ottawa. Watson is calling on the government to consider the legislation so police can now deal with the activists.
— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) 4 October 2017
The safety zone will also automatically apply to the homes for abortion clinic staff, hospitals and pharmacies that offer abortion services. People who violate the zones can face a fine with a range of $5000-$10,000 and from six months to a year in jail. Anti-abortion groups such as the Campaign Life Coalition think the proposed legislation is drastic and far-reaching. Jim Hughes,the president of the organization, said this form of ‘bubble zone legislation’ is not about protecting women from violence that doesn’t exist, instead he said it a form of silencing pro-life campaigns.
The safe access safety zones will also be able to increase or decrease in size based on regulation, if this bill is passed. This proposition is completely different to a bill that has been recently passed by the United States House of Representatives, legislating that all abortions after 20 weeks will be criminalized and punishable by up to five years in prison. This bill is a direct hit to women’s rights. This move has been supported by the Trump administration and is gathering a lot of criticism in the U.S. Planned Parenthood Action Fund says this move is just a way to slowly end all abortions. They say that 99 per cent of abortions take place before 20 weeks.
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