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NDP Announces “bubble zone” legislation for abortion providers

Bubble zone in effect in Ottawa, Ontario

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Last Wednesday NDP MLA Claudia Chender (Dartmouth South) announced plans to introduce legislation to establish “bubble zones” to prevent harassment of people seeking abortion services in Nova Scotia.

See also: Laura Slade: Fighting for a bubble zone around the VG

Bubble zones vary from province to province but always entail a certain radius around an abortion clinic, an abortion provider’s home, or another location where protest is not permitted. Legal consequences for violating the perimeter of a bubble zone range from tickets and fines to sometimes jail time. 

Chender says “We had heard about the idea from a couple of people and believe Nova Scotia should follow Alberta and British Columbia’s lead to establish bubble zone laws.”

Indeed many people are in favour of a bubble zone law in Halifax, as evidenced by the hundreds of signatures collected on a petition by Halifax resident Megan Boudreau. We reported on Boudreau’s efforts here.

The NDP legislation aims to take the protective measures beyond the grounds of the Halifax Women’s Choice Clinic at the Victoria General and extend protection across Nova Scotia to include “…other interference with service access, whether at a pharmacy, a clinic, a doctor’s office, a hospital, or a physician’s home.” 

“Including these locations ensures that access to health care isn’t restricted. Locations other than hospitals and clinics were included because pharmacies can dispense Mifegymiso for medical abortions. Physicians homes were included in order to protect physicians who provide abortion services from harassment and violence.” 

The MLA has not stated what radius she intends to request for the various locations but says “Our legislation is based on laws in other provinces.” This suggests the radius could vary based on each location’s unique needs as is the case in Ontario and BC.

Chender expects co-operation from fellow NDP members and says “The NDP is pro-choice. We will always advocate for access to health care including access to abortion services. “ She’s hopeful that “…the other parties will not oppose, and that they will agree with us that we need to protect those accessing abortion services from harassment, as governments in Alberta and BC have done recently as well.” Chender notes “…this government rarely passes opposition bills. We are hopeful, though, that in this case they will.”

Predictably, members of the anti-choice groups who will be affected if the legislation is passed have expressed strong opposition. They presented a petition of their own to Mark Furey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Randy Delorey, Minister of Health and Wellness just two days after the proposed legislation was announced to the public.

Campaign Life Coalition attempts to make a case that bubble zone laws will infringe on their free speech.  However, it has been established time and time again in the courts that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does in fact place limitations on those rights when other’s rights are violated more severely. In the case of bubble zone laws, the right to safely access healthcare services is deemed greater than the right to protest said healthcare services. Furthermore, groups and individuals remain free to protest outside of the bubble zone. 

“Reproductive health care is a right, full stop,” said Chender, who is also the NDP’s Status of Women spokesperson. “No one should have to face harassment or intimidation to access the health care services they need. Establishing bubble zones would help protect the safety and well being of patients.”

If you are in need of assistance getting to or from an abortion procedure you can contact Abortion Support Services Atlantic on Facebook or by emailing assa.coordinator@gmail.com. 

See also: Terminating a pregnancy still too difficult in Nova Scotia

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