On Oct. 25, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario received Royal Assent on Bill 163, the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017. Thus far, British Columbia, Quebec, Newfoundland, and Labrador have enacted similar safe access zone laws.
The bill, in a nutshell, states that no person can advise against or inform women about issues related to abortion services in an “access zone,” or the area within 150 meters of an abortion clinic. If violated, a person could face up to a $5,000 fine or imprisonment for up to six months.
The Access to Abortion Services Act’s language articulates that “[t]he purpose of this Act is to protect access to abortion services by protecting the safety, security, health and privacy of persons seeking to access these services and of persons providing, or assisting in the provision of, these services.”
That verbiage may sound innocuous enough, but this flawed bill is a one-sided provision that deprives a pregnant woman of real choice and exposes her to very real coercion—the pressure to have an abortion.
No woman should experience violence, threats, force or intimidation from sidewalk counselors or anyone else, every woman deserves the truth spoken in love. Every woman deserves full access to all possible information before making the decision to abort.
Responding to the new law, Dr. Laura Lewis, MD, CCFP, executive director of The Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS), a partner of Heartbeat International, pointed out this flaw in no uncertain terms.
“At CAPSS we agree that women should have a protected right to make a well-informed, well-supported pregnancy decision, free from pressure, coercion, intimidation or fear,” Lewis said. “The ‘Bubble Zone’ bill is addressing intimidation at the site of the abortion clinics, however, we wish to highlight another side of intimidation—the pressure and coercion that takes place when a woman is attempting to navigate the many challenges of an unplanned pregnancy.
“We are very aware that many women choose abortion because of fear or pressure from others. We also know that many women make the choice for abortion without full knowledge of what they are choosing.”
To Lewis’ point, Section 3 of the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017, states:
(1) While in an access zone established under section 6 for a clinic or facility, no person shall,
(a) advise or persuade, or attempt to advise or persuade, a person to refrain from accessing abortion services;
(b) inform or attempt to inform a person concerning issues related to abortion services, by any means, including oral, written or graphic means;”
Notice, the bill’s language forbids pro-lifers from so much as attempting to inform a person concerning the issues related to abortion services within the “bubble zone.” We’ve entered a dangerous game when a government wields its power to hinder a woman’s access to mere information that will help her make the healthiest possible choice.
What’s more, in the wake of recent “Expose Fake Clinics” demonstrations outside of pregnancy clinics in the U.S., at the very least, it would follow that if Canadian leadership is taking the time to enact such a law for abortion clinics, the law would also do the same for pregnancy help centers.
But, it does not.
Far from protecting women, “Bubble Zone” laws like this—including one that has been successfully turned back in Chicago—tip the scales in favor of the abortion industry, depriving women of their right to make an informed choice. Furthermore, it misses the chance to safeguard the women walking into those abortion clinics who may have been coerced into an abortion by a family member, boyfriend, husband, or others.
“This Bill presents an opportunity to speak to the other side of harassment and bullying—the coercion that many women face to have an abortion they do not want,” Lewis said. “If we’re going to talk about protecting women, let’s talk about these women as well.”
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