News / Ottawa

New safe zone space applauded

Planned Parenthood reacts

Catherine Macnab

Jesse Cnockaert / For Metro

Catherine Macnab

Ontario’s proposed “safe zones” around abortion clinics will be the most robust in the country, said Catherine Macnab, executive director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Minister for the Status of Women Indira Naidoo-Harris announced that the government will introduce the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act. If passed, the bill will prohibit anti-abortion protesters from coming within 50 metres of abortion clinics and facilities offering related services.

“They’ve done a really remarkable piece of legislation which still protects people’s right to freedom of expression, while having a lot of nuanced options for organizations to be protected,” said Macnab.

Macnab said people protest daily in front of most clinics, and even without the protestors becoming physically violent, verbal harassment and intimidation can make women afraid to seek abortion services.

“It’s not peaceful to be intimidating somebody by your presence,” she said. “Just before women enter the building they’re afraid they are going to have to deal with someone who’s going to shame them or judge them for the decision they’ve made.”

British Columbia, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador all have similar safe zone rules for abortion facilities, but Macnab says Ontario’s version is ahead of the game because it also enforces safe zones around the homes of clinic staff or health professionals who apply for it.

As well, it is possible for Ontario’s zones to be extended up to 150 metres.

People who engage in prohibited activities within safe access zones could face fines of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail for a first offence.

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