Ontario plans to create safe zones around abortion clinics
Amara McLaughlin, CTV News Toronto
Published Monday, May 29, 2017 11:53AM EDT
Ontario Attorney General and Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi plans to propose legislation that would create “safe zones” around abortion clinics where protests and demonstrations would be banned.
These zones promise to provide protections to women and workers at abortion clinics amid what advocacy groups say has been escalating tensions surrounding women’s abortion rights across the province.
“For many years, people seeking reproductive services at clinics across Ontario have been subjected to escalating hostility and aggression – adding tremendous stress to what may be an already difficult time in their lives,” Planned Parenthood Ottawa executive director Catherine Macnab said in a news release.
Naqvi made the announcement Monday morning in Ottawa, saying such a law would protect women seeking abortions from harassment and intimidation.
“It’s critical that those protections be enshrined in law to provide consistent protection across the province,” he told reporters. “In an increasingly polarized society, it is critical that we protect a woman’s fundamental right to choose.”
The bill will provide legal protections to help ensure the safety and privacy of women, visitors and health care workers when travelling to and from these facilities, according to a news release.
‘Bubble-zone’ law upheld in B.C. and N.L.
Similar laws already exist in other provinces, including British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador where legislation limits how close to these facilities anti-abortion demonstrations can take place.
British Columbia’s protest-free “bubble zone law” has been in place for 12 years. Although these bubbles range in width, they ban protests within a 30 metre radius from abortion clinics.
In 2008, the province’s highest court dismissed a constitutional challenge of the law, which claimed it violated freedom of expression under the Charter.
This fall, Newfoundland and Labrador also enacted a law to restrict abortion protests near clinics. The legislation keeps protesters at least 50 metres away from the facilities.
Ontario ‘safe zone’ bill planned for fall 2017
Naqvi said consultation on the issue will be conducted over the summer with health care, legal and advocacy groups.
In that time, he says they will develop further details on the new law.
The bill is expected to be introduced by the fall.