Protecting a Woman's Right to Choose
Ontario Introduces Bill to Create Safe Access to Abortion Services
Ontario is protecting a woman's right to choose and access abortion services without fear of interference, intimidation or harassment.
Today, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Indira Naidoo-Harris, Minister for the Status of Women, announced that the government will introduce the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017. The bill would, if passed, protect the safety, security, health, and privacy of women and health care providers by allowing for safe access zones to be established around clinics and facilities that offer abortion services, the homes of clinic staff, and the homes and offices of other regulated health professionals who provide these services.
Safe access zones are spaces where activities such as advising a person to refrain from accessing abortion services, abortion-related protests and activities that intimidate or interfere with individuals accessing or providing abortion services would be prohibited. In safe access zones around homes, similar activities would be prohibited if they are directly targeted at, or are about the clinic staff member or health professional who lives in the home.
The legislation would also prohibit harassing conduct anywhere in Ontario, directed at clinic staff and regulated health professionals who provide abortion services.
- The size of the automatic safe access zones around clinics would be 50 metres, but this size could be decreased or increased up to 150 metres by regulation.
- British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador have enacted safe access zone laws over the past few decades.
- Other facilities that provide abortion services (e.g. hospitals, health centres, and pharmacies) could apply for safe access zones of up to 150 metres.
- Health professionals who provide abortion services outside of clinics could apply for safe access zones of up to 150 metres around their offices.
- Staff at Ontario abortion clinics and health professionals who provide abortion services outside of clinics, would receive automatic safe access zones of 150 metres around their homes.
- People who engage in any of the prohibited activities within safe access zones would face fines of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months upon their first offence. For second and subsequent offences, fines could range between $1,000 and $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.
“Our government is standing up for every woman’s right to choose, and protecting the safety of abortion service providers. The proposed safe access zones would mean that patients, visitors and staff are able to enter and depart from clinics and facilities that provide abortion services in a manner that protects their safety, security, health and privacy.”
“Our government’s proposed safe access zones would protect a woman’s fundamental right to fair and equal access to safe abortion. It’s 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 from the threat or fear of violence or harassment.”
“Safe Access Zones put health equity first. These zones protect our clients’ right to access the services that they need without harassment. The intimidation tactics used by anti-choice protesters harm those accessing mental health, primary care, and abortion services alike. We commend the province for introducing legislation that will safeguard reproductive choice and other healthcare services.”
Sarah Hobbs Blyth