A new law has been enacted in Ontario under which safe zones around abortion clinics will be set up. Ottawa police were on locations this week to enforce the boundaries of the zone.
The Safe Access to Abortion Services Act has laid down a ban on any protests within a 50-metre radius of an abortion clinic.
Ontario Attorney General and Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi stated that with the new law, women can access abortion services safely and securely in the province without having to face any sort of intimidation or interference.
Naqvi said that while there had been complaints of aggressive demonstrators for years, recent reports of escalating violence in downtown Ottawa near the Morgentaler Clinic had prompted the new law.
Law To Prevent Harassment
The law allows Abortions clinics to extend the radius up to 150 metres. Under the legislation the established zone for the clinics begins at the boundaries of the property of the clinic rather than the clinic’s front door.
Although other health facilities that offer abortion services such as hospitals and pharmacies are not included automatically within the legislation they can apply for it.
Activists demanding better protections for women seeking abortion services welcomed the move.
Darrah Teitel, a spokesperson for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights expressed hope that other provinces will follow suit. She also rejected criticism that the measure affects the rights of protesters to freely express their beliefs, stating that “harassment and intimidation and threats” preclude it.
Demonstrators against abortion however denied harassment claims stating that the pro-life movement was a “peaceful” one.
Ottawa police were on ground at clinics creating a “physically visible” boundary to inform the protestors of the new safe zone.
Police To Focus On Education
Under the new rules, anyone found violating the new rules can face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to six months in prison for a first-time offence.
Const. Chuck Benoit said that police would be issuing warnings at first and would proceed to arrests only if the violation continues.
The bill also states that a person may not be convicted unless they are known to have knowledge of the safe zone. Benoit said the police will be focusing on educating the public regarding the new safe zone to avoid such situations.
Johanne Brownrigg, who belongs to one of the protesting groups, Campaign Life Coalition, has said that the group will look for other ways to protest. Brownrigg also did not ruled out the possibility of challenging the law in the courts, but has not confirmed it.