Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights welcomes Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi’s plans to introduce a provincial bill that would enforce a “Bubble Zone” injunction to protect people from harassment around sites where abortion care is provided in Ontario.
After years of public pressure and activism, a recent uproar in defense of people targeted by anti-choice protestors outside the Ottawa Morgentaler Clinic forced action on behalf of Ottawa city counsellors. Ottawa’s Mayor formally asked the province to create a law to protect people’s access to abortion services. Consistent tension between the Morgentaler Clinic’s patients and staff and anti-choice protesters highlighted the lack of support from local police service and city officials.
Similar laws already exist in B.C., Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador and some clinics benefit from special protection provided by case by case injunctions. But a piecemeal approach is not the way forward. Legislated bubble zones are necessary to ensure the safety of staff and patients as well as protect people’s rights to access a medically necessary procedure without being subjected to intimidation, harassment and the threat of violence. Such safeguards are needed across Canada, everywhere that abortion care is provided.
Almost three decades have passed since abortion was decriminalized in Canada but those who wish to access this medical service often still face many barriers. While women are not the only people who have abortions, 1 in 3 will have an abortion before the age of 45. This common procedure is an integral part of a comprehensive package of reproductive health services. It is past time that our governments, provincial, territorial and federal, step up to the challenge that is ensuring better access to abortion.
Before introducing their legislation, it is critical that Ontario seek expert advice from the health care providers and advocates who are most implicated by this law.
All provinces and territories, including Ontario, must continue to advance better and safer access to abortion everywhere in the country. We strongly encourage remaining governments to proactively follow suit and address this form of violence by enacting bubble zone legislation throughout Canada.