EDMONTON, Alberta, April 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman has announced that lawmakers will soon introduce legislation imposing “buffer zones” around abortion facilities, to prevent pro-life volunteers from attempting to change women’s minds.
Bill 9, which is titled the “Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act,” may be tabled by Thursday, the Edmonton Journal reports. Deputy house leader Kathleen Ganley also confirmed plans to pursue the measure. Critics say the bill is yet another strong-armed measure of the province's NDP government that attacks the rights of law-abiding citizens.
“This is ridiculous government overreach,” tweeted Edmonton Prolife.
But Hoffman claimed at a news conference on Wednesday the bill is “not about freedom of speech.”
“This is about deliberate targeting by intimidation, shame, harassment and bullying of women who are often vulnerable.” She added that she would “like there to be some consequences if you violated the legislation.”
The leaders would not yet reveal specifics of the legislation, such as the exact distance pro-lifers would have to stay around abortion facilities or the consequences of violating it. But similar legislation that took effect in Ontario in February may be a guide for what to expect. Bill 163 forbids pro-lifers from protesting within 50 feet of a facility, and punishes first offenders with a $5,000 fine and/or up to six months in prison. Those amounts are doubled for repeat offenders.
British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador also have similar laws on the books.
If passed, Bill 9 would cover two abortion centers in Edmonton and Calgary, which account for approximately 75% of all abortions in Alberta. Both locations are sites of persistent pro-life protests and witness, and both currently have court orders requiring pro-lifers to remain across the street.
The abortion centers’ directors claim that these orders are too weak. Police “have told us we're not a priority and I understand that,” Kensington Clinic in Calgary executive director Celia Posyniak said at Hoffman’s news conference. “However, if we don't enforce the meagre little order that we have … it would be chaos.”
Opposition UCP house leader Jason Nixon declined to comment to the Edmonton Journal until he could see the legislation itself, committing only to “look at the bill and go from there.” But pro-life leaders are speaking out.
Enacting buffer zones “violates so many charter rights and is redundant as anyone who harasses another may be criminally charged under existing [legislation],” the Edmonton Prolife Society added on Twitter. The group shared a petition against Alberta buffer zones from the pro-life group RightNow that cites the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of “expression” and “peaceful assembly” as “fundamental freedoms.”
“We’re in a democratic society; any other group that has an unpopular opinion can protest,” said Samantha Williams, executive director of the Black Porch pro-life ministry located across the street from the Edmonton abortion facility.
Many women who chose life thanks to last-minute intervention outside abortion facilities passionately dispute the abortion industry’s characterization of pro-life witness as “harassment.” Last week, LifeSiteNews covered the launch of the Be Here For Me campaign in the United Kingdom, which protests similar laws by highlighting the firsthand accounts of women who are grateful that pro-life activists were able to reach them and offer assistance before they went through with aborting their children.
“I walked into the Marie Stopes clinic and a woman standing outside offered me a leaflet. I asked what it was and she said she could offer help if I wanted it,” one such woman, Alina, recalls. Today she and her daughter have joined those pro-lifers. She says she can confirm “there’s nothing shocking or graphic on the leaflets,” and “there’s no harassment going on.”