Ontario won’t allow pro-life protesters to rally outside of abortion clinics, the Canadian province’s legislature ruled Wednesday.
The new law prevents pro-life people from expressing views in front of Ontario’s eight abortion clinics as well as pharmacies that provide abortion pills, according to The Independent. Each facility has a 50-meter safe zone outside.
The law applies to the homes of abortion doctors and workers as well — and extends the 50-meter zone to a 150-meter zone.
Ontario’s Attorney General Yasir Naqvi applauded the bill after it was passed, saying the measure is extremely important in order to protect women’s abortion access and reproductive healthcare.
“Our government firmly believes that the choice to access abortion services is a deeply personal one,” Naqvi said when he introduced the legislation at the beginning of October. “Patients have the right to access abortion services safely and securely with their privacy maintained, free from any intimidation or interference.”
“While I strongly support everyone’s fundamental right to freedom of expression, our laws must balance that right with keeping people safe,” he added.
People who violate the law will be fined up to £3,000 Canadian dollars — the equivalent of $5,000 U.S. dollars — and spend up to six months in prison. Those who violate the law more than once could face fines of $10,000 dollars or more and up to a year in jail.
“The safe access zone bill protects choice no matter what comes of anti-abortion tactics now or in the future,” Sarah Hobbs Blyth, Planned Parenthood Toronto executive director, said earlier this month. “Health equity cannot be achieved within the four walls of a clinic alone. It begins first with getting to the clinic.”
Pro-lifers don’t agree.
“Bubble zone legislation isn’t about protecting women and abortion staff workers from violence, because there is no evidence of such violence,” Jim Hughes, the president of Campaign Life Coalition, said in a statement. “This is about silencing peaceful pro-life witnessing and preventing women from having access to alternatives.”
The Canadian provinces British Columbia, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador already have similar laws.
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