In news that will likely elicit a resounding “ugh, finally” from a significant portion of the state, the New South Wales government has introduced a bill that would create “safe zones” around abortion clinics, protecting women from being harassed by pro-life protesters.
Labor MLC Penny Sharpe introduced the bill today, telling parliament:
“It is unacceptable that women are forced to look at distorted graphic images and told they are murderers and are going to hell.“It is unacceptable that women are jostled and filmed. It is unacceptablet hat the dedicated staff are often followed and harassed on their way into and out of work.”
If the bill is passed, it will create 150-metre “safe access zones” around abortion clinics and other family planning and reproductive health services, allowing police to move on anyone protesting in these areas.
A similar bill was passed in Victoria in late 2015, following Tasmania and the ACT, and has already made a tangible difference to the lives of those seeking and providing abortions. Dr Susie Allanson, a clinical psychologist at a Melbourne fertility clinic, was quoted as saying:
“There have been no protests this week, there has been no harassment of women, there have been no women and their children coming into the clinic in tears…“It’s a bit strange after putting up with it for so long, but we like this kind of strange.”
A low bar to clear – legislating to protect people from being harassed at their place of work, or while seeking safe and legal medical treatment – so let’s hope NSW can clear it.
Image: Robert Cianflone / Getty.