News / Ottawa

Abortion fight comes to City Hall

Abortion rights activists are pushing Ottawa to take a stand on accessing safe abortion in the city.

The city is reviewing its policies after the March for Life flag was raised and then taken down on Wednesday.

Alex Abdelwahab/Metro

The city is reviewing its policies after the March for Life flag was raised and then taken down on Wednesday.

Two pro-choice rights groups are challenging city hall to do more to ensure safe access to abortion in Ottawa.

Defend Choice Ottawa will be presenting a petition to city council next Wednesday asking the city ensure police enforce the Special Events on City Streets Bylaw, to stop protesters from harassing patients at the Ottawa Morgentaler clinic. It's also asking the city to provide funding to cover the legal costs of fighting in court for a bubble zone around the clinic.

A bubble zone would create a broader area around the clinic where protesters are not allowed.

“When you apply for a bubble zone, the clinic will have to go to court eventually to essentially fight the freedom of speech [implications]. It could result in thousands of dollars in legal fees,” Sydney Holmes, co-founder of Defend Choice Ottawa, said, adding currently the widow of Henry Morgentaler would be on the hook to pay.

In a statement released back in April, Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said that particular by-law was not intended to apply to cases like the protests outside the Morgentaler clinic and only a court could grant a bubble zone.

The petition has received about 700 signatures, according to Holmes.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Ottawa has registered a formal complaint with the city against Cathy Bowles, Chief of Protocol over her decision to approve the raising of the March for Life flag at City Hall last week.

In a letter addressed to Bowles, the organization wrote her decision violated city policy on three fronts: first that politically or religiously motivated events must be excluded, second that proclamations cannot be made on issues of individual conviction, and third that flag raising is intended to encourage support from members of the public.

“We really want Ottawa to recognize that reproductive rights are human rights. That’s not negotiable,” Planned Parenthood Ottawa Executive Director Catherine Macnab said. “The city really needs to consider whether they’re contributing to the violations of human rights.”

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