Thanks to a new bill passed by the Ontario legislature, there will soon be buffer zones around abortion clinics, making it illegal to protest outside of them in Canada’s most populous province.
The fast-tracked bill, passed on Wednesday, will create 50 to 150-meter safe access zones around the province’s eight abortion clinics. Anti-abortion activists will be prohibited from protesting or passing out literature in these zones. Within these areas it will be illegal to advise a person not to get an abortion, or to physically interfere with anyone trying to gain access to or provide an abortion.
The homes of abortion providers will have an automatic 150-meter safe zone around them. Hospitals, Planned Parenthood and other abortion service providers will have to apply to the government for permission to create buffer zones of up to 150 meters around their places of work.
The law won’t be enforced immediately because the safe zones will have to be introduced through regulations.
Anyone who violates the safe access zone rules would face fines of up to $5,000 and six months jail time on their first offence, and fines ranging between $1,000 and $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 12 months for subsequent offences.
“Our government believes that every woman in Ontario has the right to make decisions about her own health care – and she deserves to do so freely, without fear,” Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said in statement, announcing the new rules. “This legislation sends a clear message that we will always stand up for a woman’s right to choose.”
An increase in harassment of women outside abortion clinics in recent months prompted the government to look at the issue, Naqvi told reporters earlier this month. In one case, a woman was spat on by anti-abortion protesters as she tried to get past them.
“As soon as I learned, in my own community that a woman was spat on for just simply going to get health-care service…action was needed,” Naqvi said. “We worked as hard as we could to get this legislation here.”