Ontario legislature passes law banning abortion protests
By: Julie Arounlasy
Ontario is making it illegal to protest outside and near abortion clinics.
The legislature passed Bill 163, the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, on Wednesday. This bill will create zones around the eight clinics in the province of between 50 and 150 metres, in which anti-abortion protests will be banned.
The ban means protesters can’t advise a person not to get an abortion or intimidate or interfere with a woman’s ability to access the services.
The bill will also automatically apply the ban to 150 metres around the homes of abortion staff and health professionals who provide the services.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi made a debate statement in the legislature regarding “Protecting a Woman’s Right to Access Abortion Services Act”.
“It has always been my steadfast belief that every woman in Ontario has the right to make decisions about her own health care and they deserve to do so freely without fear for their safety, privacy or dignity,” he said.
Anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition released a statement Wednesday condemning members of the Ontario Legislature for passing the bill by an 86-1 vote. The group is pursuing a challenge through the legal system to overturn this law which they say “directly attacks the freedom of speech, expression and assembly of Ontarians.”
Louise Harbour, Executive Director at Alliance For Life Ontario, told Humber News that the bill is “anti-information” because you can no longer offer help to women as they approach the clinic.
“Some women have changed their minds after they have been offered help, but now this option is being removed from them,” she said.
“The pro-life movement is a peaceful movement and we would never support any harassment of women. The bill is unnecessary because we already have in the criminal code prohibitions against assault or intimidation so if an incident were to occur at a clinic, we already have the means to call the police to deal with the problem.”
The lone politician to vote against the bill was Jack MacLaren, a former Progressive Conservative who now sits as an independent after joining the Trillium Party, which the legislature does not recognize as an official party.
Naqvi said the law will not come into force immediately as the zones need to be set through regulations.
There will be an application process for other health-care providers or pharmacists, as some Ontario pharmacies recently started offering the abortion pill, Mifegymiso.
Anyone who violates the safe zones will face up to $5,000 in fines and six months in jail for a first offence and fines of $1,000 to $10,000 and up to a year in jail for a second or subsequent offence.
“While I strongly support everyone’s fundamental right to freedom of expression, our laws must balance that right with the need to protect access to abortion services and to protect the safety, security, health and privacy of patients and providers,” Naqvi said in his debate statement.