new legislation proposed that will allow women to get an abortion in Canberra without harassment
The Greens’ Shane Rattenbury released draft legislation on Monday, aimed at banning anti-abortion protests outside Canberra’s clinic in Moore Street.
Fairfax reports the legislation doesn’t set a specific distance, though it aims to end the demonstrations of anti-abortion protestors handing out material to woman coming and going from the clinic, leaving it to the health minister to declare an area ‘sufficient to ensure the privacy and unimpeded access for anyone entering.’
Mr Rattenbury told the media organisation the exclusion area will most likely be based on the footprint of the building, including the roads and footpaths around the building and the opposite side of the street.
The legislation aims to provide protection and safety for the women visiting the clinic, with Mr Rattenbury saying, ‘This is about a woman being able to go down there and have this medical procedure without being harassed or intimidated.’
‘What we’re trying to achieve is that women should not have to run the gauntlet when they are seeking to access these legal medical services.’
The legislation aims to end the ‘harassment, hindering, intimidation, interference with, threatening or obstruction’ designed to stop anyone entering the clinic, having an abortion or conducting an abortion.
People who choose to ignore the new legislation could face fines of $3750 for protesting and intimidating the women within the exclusion area, while anyone who publishes films or photographs of people entering or leaving the clinic could face fines of $7500 and six months behind bars.
Mr Rattenbury says protesters will still be able to perform their anti-abortion displays outside the ACT assembly, Parliament House, or elsewhere, as the legislation is not an attempt to deny people’s right to protest.
The draft legislation was released for comment on Monday with hopes to have it debated at the assembly at the end of the year, meaning that women may still have a long wait before they can visit the Moore Street clinic in peace.
The Women’s Centre for Health Matters executive director, Marcia Williams, told the Canberra Times that woman were often forced to reschedule appointments after they were intimidated by the weekly anti-abortion displays. She said staff were also affected, feeling like they were ‘walking through a wall of people who were making judgments.’
‘Anecdotally, we often get emails, we often have conversations with people that work in that building, and … what we hear is they do feel considerable distress in response to having those people there. Women feel ashamed and judged when they’re already feeling anxious.’
While Ms Williams recognizes that people have a right to express themselves, she explains that it must be done in a way that does not ‘intimidate and harass people.’
‘It’s a fine balance, that rights issue … Does a man going into a vasectomy clinic have to deal with protest? This is a legal health service and about the right to privacy.’
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