KJIPUKTUK (Hallifax) – Announced in December and tabled last week NDP MLA Claudia Chender’s abortion bubble zone legislation has encountered little debate or opposition from fellow house members.
The legislation establishes “bubble zones” – a 50 meter radius around abortion clinics and other locations where anti-abortion protest or other attempts at persuasion or interference will not be tolerated. The legislation also provides protection from harassment such as repeated phone calls and other forms of communication.
Initially Premier McNeil expressed interest in expanding the bill to include all types of protest on hospital grounds, telling CBC “All of us who want to access health care should not feel like we have to go through a protest line, regardless of what that is.”
Based on his history with unionized labour disputes, some interpreted that to mean that McNeil would like for the legislation to apply to workplace unionized workers at hospitals. Equating people protesting abortions with labour picketers would be dubious, at best. Thankfully and for reasons unknown, the Premier did not pursue this notion.
Though Bill 242, the Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Act, has moved quickly through the legislative process, there was some predictable dissent from the usual suspects.
Catherine Dingle from Campaign Life Coalition showed up to speak to the law amendments committee on Friday claiming that they’ve had “no complaints” about their demonstrations outside of the Victoria General hospital in Halifax.
This contradicts what Dr. Melissa Brooks, medical director of the Women’s Choice Clinic in Halifax, told the committee – that the protests are clearly intended to shame patients and providers and that some of her colleagues have installed bullet proof glass in their homes.
During her address to the House, Chender spoke of local activist Megan Boudreau who took it upon herself to do something after seeing the protesters outside of the VG. Boudreau is a SMU psychology student who created a petition asking for the bubble zone, spending her spare time researching the legislative process and standing on the cold streets of Halifax asking people to sign.
Boudreau made her own address to the Law Amendments committee: “…there are so many reasons why someone would undergo this medical procedure, none of which should be judged…by others.”
The consequences for those found to be in violation of the law are fines up to $5000 or imprisonment of no more than 6 months for a first offence.
It appears that Boudreau’s efforts have paid off and the bill will pass today as written.
The Bill is scheduled to go through third and final reading today, the last step prior to receiving royal assent and becoming law. Today is also widely assumed to be the last day of this spring legislative session.
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