Moves to protect women from anti-abortion activists

A protester outside the Marie Stopes Clinic in Midland in 2016. Picture: David Baylis        www.communitypix.com.au   d449781
A protester outside the Marie Stopes Clinic in Midland in 2016. Picture: David Baylis        www.communitypix.com.au d449781

WOMEN may soon be protected from anti-abortion activists hurling abuse at them with the State Government today releasing a discussion paper to help shield patients from harassment and intimidation when accessing abortion services.

The start of the consultation period follows last week’s High Court decision confirming the constitutional validity of legislation establishing safe access zones in Victoria and Tasmania.

All states except WA and South Australia have safe access zones outside abortion clinics, which prevent protesters coming within 150m or in some cases 50m of abortion clinics.

Health Minister Roger Cook said there had been ongoing instances of people being confronted by protestors when accessing abortion services in WA.

“These protests cause anxiety and distress for patients, as well as staff, which is why the State Government is working to introduce safe access zones,” he said.

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“The State Government believes all patients in WA have a right to safety, privacy and respect when accessing health care.

“This reform will mean women in WA can attend abortion clinics for a legal medical procedure without having to endure protestors hurling abuse.

“This discussion paper is an opportunity for the community to provide input into the design of the legislation, so that we can determine how best these safe access zones can be introduced in WA.”

Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk said she wanted women to have access to good health care, including responsible family planning.

“The introduction of safe access zones will maintain the rights of women to privacy and safety during what is likely a very difficult time,” she said.

“I encourage the Western Australian public to have their say on how they think these zones can best be implemented and how we can help ensure women accessing legal medical procedures can do so without further distress.”

Last month the anti-abortion group, known as 40 Days For Life, were given a permit to pray from 7am to 5pm outside the Marie Stopes’ Midland clinic a Marie Stopes’ clinic during Lent.

The pro-life movement mobilises Christians to pray for an end to abortion in Australia.

Marie Stopes has campaigned for safe access zones across the country saying Because there’s no regulation on the claims made by protestors they’re able to make medically impossible claims designed to traumatise and distress patients before an abortion.

Acting CEO Jamal Hakim said Marie Stopes Midland and Nanyarra in Rivervale have been subjected to daily congregations of picketers over Lent.

“It is time that safe access zones became a reality for women and clinic staff in Western Australia,” he said.

The discussion paper, the online survey and more information surrounding the consultation process is at www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/safeaccesszones

Submissions close May 31, 2019.