The provincial government has taken steps to further protect a woman’s right to choose.
Earlier this week, Ontario’s Attorney General, Yasir Naqvi and Minister of the Status of Women, Indira Naidoo-Harris announced a proposed bill aimed at safeguarding healthcare workers and patients in the province from various forms of harassment commonly associated with abortion procedures.
The proposed legislation titled, the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017 outlines the legal implementation of safe access zones; a physical barrier extending within a 50-metre radius of all of Ontario’s 8 clinics and numerous healthcare sites offering abortion services.
Ontario is the 4th province in the country to propose safe access zone laws after British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador have done so in the past few decades.
Minister Naidoo-Harris explains the decision as one intended to ease the abortion process for those most affected.
“I think this gives people who are going through a difficult time in their lives, having made difficult decisions, the ability to [undergo abortion procedures] in a way that doesn’t make them feel intimidated or unsafe as they’re going about doing what they’ve decided is important for their body and their healthcare.” –Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris
If this bill were to pass, individuals found violating the terms of these safe access zones would be subject to fines of up to $5000 and/or six months in prison. Repeat offenders face the possibility of up to $10,000 in fines and/or one year in prison.
“It really is about insuring that as a province we are keeping people who are trying to access healthcare safe and I think that is a fundamental right.” –Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris
The size of the safe access zones can be decreased or increased by up to 150 metres. Additionally, to further protect from harassment and/or abuse, healthcare workers involved in abortion services would receive automatic safe access zones of 150 metres around their homes.
The Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017 is in the proposal stage and awaits procedural debate and consultation as it makes its way through the legislative process.