Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Friday, 27 November 2015

Australian State Just Made Abortion Clinics Safer With Anti-Protest Zone

Australian State Just Made Abortion Clinics Safer With Anti-Protest Zone

The Debrief: Now can the UK get buffer zones already?

The difficulty in getting an abortion isn’t just a matter of striking up the courage to make a stigmatised decision about your own body. It’s a matter of making it to the clinic that will provide the termination. And on the way there, in so many places – yes, even in the UK – anti-abortion protestors will be there with the goal of shaming women out of having an abortion.

Their harassment might be a passive aggressive, gently spoken ‘we love your baby and we love you’, but regardless, the goal is to derail a woman’s right to choose.

That’s why it’s fantastic that in Victoria, Australia, it is now illegal for protestors to film people or block access within 150 metres of an abortion clinic. The ‘block access’ thing isn’t just about physically blocking people, but about intimidating a woman in any way, as health minister Jill Hennessy said: ‘Women have a right to medical privacy and the right to access a legal health service without harassment or intimidation.’

And Rita Butera, executive director of Women’s Health Victoria, said: ‘Thanks to the bill, women making personal and often difficult health decisions in relation to pregnancy can expect the same degree of privacy, safety and dignity that all Victorians are entitled to when accessing health services’.

The bill was an idea of the Sex Party MP Fiona Patten, but was then borrowed by the government. It was eventually passed by 31 to 8 votes, reports The Guardian.

We recently asked the UK government if they’d be providing similar. The Department of Health’s response? ‘There is a balance to be struck between the right to protest as part of a free and democratic society, and the rights of others not to fear intimidation or serious disruption when acting within the law.’

As for the opposition? MP Yvette Cooper told us she will continue to call for a buffer zone outside abortion clinics, which would would mean that anti-abortion protesters will not be able to have any contact with women seeking an abortion.

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Tags: Abortion, Australia, Health