Safe zones to be introduced around WA abortion clinics

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

NEW laws will provide safe access zones around WA abortion clinics.

According to the State Government, the laws which are being drafted will “protect and respect the safety, dignity, wellbeing and privacy of individuals seeking access to these legal medical services”.

The proposed zones will provide a 150m buffer around premises at which abortions are provided to prevent abortion-related demonstrations close to these premises.

The introduction of safe access zones in WA would bring the State into line with all other Australian jurisdictions, apart from South Australia.

During consultation on the issue, the State Government received 4000 responses from the public and from more than 40 public and private organisations.

Seventy per cent of respondents supported the introduction of safe access zones.

“Demonstrations outside abortion services act as a barrier to accessing legal health services, cause distress and anxiety to patients and staff, and are unable to be adequately managed by existing laws,” Health Minister Roger Cook said.

 “The behaviour of demonstrators affects vulnerable patients and those accompanying patients to the clinics, as well as medical, nursing, allied health and administrative staff.

“Consultation has shown there is strong community support for the introduction of safe access zones around clinics and the McGowan Government will now move to introduce this legislation into State Parliament.”

Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk said Western Australian women had right to access legal medical services without fear of intimidation or harassment.

“It is important to move demonstrators away from the immediate vicinity of premises that provide abortion services so that patients can access legal health services in a safe and confidential way,” she said.

“Safe access zones are vital to help to ensure that women, who have a legal right to access these procedures, can maintain their privacy and safety.”

Marie Stopes Australia’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Jacquie O’Brien said there had been widespread support for the zones in WA for a number of years.

“We have been so heartened by the messages of support from the community whenever we have had issues with picketers,” she said.

“It is a sad reality that we need these zones outside abortion services, but the fact is they work.

“When a client comes to see us for any service, they do not want to be confronted by complete strangers surveying them or judging them as they access a sensitive medical procedure.

“t can be very intimidating and upsetting for them and for their support people.

“If you want to express your ethical objections to abortion or any other health service, standing outside a clinic and intimidating staff and clients is not the way to do it.”