Western Australia has made it illegal to protest outside abortion clinics

Western Australia has made it illegal to protest outside abortion clinics

The move brings the law in Western Australia into line with all other Australian states and territories.

Western Australia has joined every other Australian state or territory in legislating safe access zones for women accessing abortions.

The state parliament on Thursday passed a government bill which will prevent people from picketing within 150 metres of facilities that provide abortion services.

Debate had stretched for several days in the Legislative Council but its passage was assured given the McGowan government’s majority in both houses.

Family planning healthcare provider Marie Stopes said the new law would protect women from intimidation and harassment when accessing abortions.

It said picketers spent almost 2,300 hours each year outside the Marie Stopes Midland clinic and that staff had also been targeted.

“This is a momentous day for human rights in Australia, with safe access zones now legislated in every state and territory in Australia,” managing director Jamal Hakim said.

“No one should fear being intimidated or harassed when accessing abortion and reproductive health services.”

Health Minister Roger Cook said the new law would also ban people from sharing potentially-identifying footage of people accessing facilities that provide abortions.

A maximum penalty of a $12,000 fine and 12 months’ imprisonment applies to anyone engaging in prohibited behaviour in a safe access zone.

“For far too long, women had to run the gauntlet of people outside abortion clinics,” Mr Cook said.

“It is already a difficult and intensely personal decision without having to encounter a protest before undergoing a legal medical procedure.”

Human Rights Law Centre associate legal director Adrianne Walters is urging WA to remove all further barriers to timely reproductive healthcare.

“While we acknowledge and celebrate this important milestone, the next step for the McGowan government is to modernise and decriminalise the state’s abortion laws, which are outdated and causing harm,” she said.

Liberal MPs Nick Goiran and Neil Thomson, and Nationals MP James Hayward, opposed the bill on the second reading late on Tuesday.

Mr Goiran told the chamber he had visited the Midland clinic and saw no evidence of heckling or harassing.

“I saw people offering help with a demeanour of respect, empathy and humanity,” he said.

Labor MP Samantha Rowe cited a constituent who described being called a “murderer” by pro-life protesters waiting outside a clinic.

“People accessing a legal medical procedure should not have to undergo any kind of interference,” she said.

SOURCE AAP – SBS

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