The Liberal government of Ontario has passed legislation that would make it illegal to hold protests near or outside abortion clinics. The ban will also protect health professionals and staff who provide abortion services at their homes.
The law would create safe access zones around abortion clinics to protect women seeking the abortions and the health care workers that perform them.
Yasir Naqvi, Ontario’s attorney general, says the government believed the choice to access abortion services is a deeply personal one and patients have the right to do so safely and securely with their privacy maintained.
He says the safe zones would extend from 50 to 150 meters around the province’s eight abortion clinics. Inside this safe zone, any interference, protest or intimidation regarding abortions will be banned. And the law goes even further.
"Clinic staff and health professionals who provide abortion services would automatically receive safe access zones of 150 meters around their homes that would protect them against behavior that targets them," Naqvi said.
Naqvi says Ontario began preparing the legislation after looking at similar laws in three other provinces. He says in recent months there have been reports of an increase in anti-abortion protests across the province. Some of those protests have prevented women from accessing a clinic.
"People who engage in any of the prohibited activities that are outlined in the legislation, they will face fines of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months for their first offense," he said.
Naqvi says the law is about ensuring safety and he is confident that it can withstand any legal challenge. The anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition says the bill tramples freedom of speech and has threatened legal action.
It’s not clear yet when the law will actually go into effect.