Ontario introduces legislation for safety and access to abortion services

Oct 5 2017, 2:10 am

The Ontario government is working on protecting a woman’s right to choose and access abortion services without fear or harassment.

On Wednesday, attorney general Yasir Naqvi and Indira Naidoo-Harris, Minister for the Status of Women, announced that the province will introduce the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act.

If passed, the new Bill would protect the safety, security, health, and privacy of women and health care providers by allowing for safe access zones to be established around clinics and facilities that offer abortion services, the homes of clinic staff, and the homes and offices of other regulated health professionals who provide these services.

According to the province, safe access zones are “spaces where activities such as advising a person to refrain from accessing abortion services, abortion-related protests and activities that intimidate or interfere with individuals accessing or providing abortion services would be prohibited.”

Additionally, the government said that the size of the automatic safe access zones around clinics would be 50 metres, but this size could be decreased or increased up to 150 metres by regulation.

“Our government is standing up for every woman’s right to choose, and protecting the safety of abortion service providers,” said Naqvi in a statement. “The proposed safe access zones would mean that patients, visitors and staff are able to enter and depart from clinics and facilities that provide abortion services in a manner that protects their safety, security, health and privacy.”

The new legislation would also prohibit harassing conduct anywhere in Ontario, directed at clinic staff and regulated health professionals who provide abortion services. Further, anyone engaging in prohibited activities within safe access zones would face fines of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months upon their first offence. For second and subsequent offences, fines could range between $1,000 and $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.

“Our government’s proposed safe access zones would protect a woman’s fundamental right to fair and equal access to safe abortion,” said Naidoo-Haris. “It’s an important step forward, and one that strengthens the rights of all women in Ontario. Women in our province should be able to access health care, free from the threat or fear of violence or harassment.”

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