New bill to create no-protest zones around abortion clinics

Above: Minister Hoffman is joined by the co-sponsor of the legislation, MLA Deborah Drever, and staff from the Women’s Health Options clinic.

by Morinville News Staff

The government says its Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act would safeguard women who choose to access abortion services, as well as abortion clinic staff, from protests, interference, bullying and intimidation.

“It’s not okay that Alberta women still face aggression, bullying and harassment for making choices about their healthcare,” said Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health, in a media release Thursday afternoon. “We need to protect women, their families, and health-care professionals from threats and intimidation around abortion services.”

The new legislation establishes a 50-metre “access zones” at Alberta’s two non-hospital abortion clinics, including Woman’s Health Options in Edmonton and Kensington Clinic in Calgary.

The government says the access zone is to prevent intimidation, interference or protesting against patients, doctors and clinic staff. Visual or audio recordings of patients, doctors or staff within an access zone would also be prohibited.

The legislation also would allow doctors and service providers to request a regulated access zone of up to 160 metres for their homes or 20 metres for an office.

Under the new rules, it would also be illegal to use repeated phone, mail or electronic communications to try to convince a doctor or service provider to not provide abortion services.

The legislation creates escalating fines for repeated violations of the act, up to $10,000 for an individual or $100,000 for a corporation.

British Columbia has had similar legislation in place since 1996, and Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador have also passed similar legislation.

There have been 103,177 surgical abortions in Alberta between 2010 and 2016, an average of 14,739 per year. More than 75 per cent of abortions in Alberta are provided at the Kensington Clinic in Calgary and Woman’s Health Options in Edmonton.

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