OTTAWA, May 25, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has asked the Ontario Liberals to bring in provincial bubble zone legislation that will ban pro-life demonstrations and sidewalk counselling efforts in front of abortion centres.
Watson announced Tuesday he’d sent a letter to Attorney General Yasir Naqvi requesting an “Access to Abortion Services Act” to prohibit pro-life efforts not only at Ottawa’s abortion centres but across the province.
Watson made his request after he and councillor Catherine McKenney met with Catherine Mcnab of Planned Parenthood and Melissa Heimert of Ottawa Victim Services to discuss abortion access in the city, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.
The mayor wrote that BC’s 1996 bubble zone law has survived a constitutional challenge, and that Newfoundland and Labrador passed similar legislation in 2016.
His letter cited “recent media reports” that claimed “patient and staff trying to access the Ottawa Morgentaler Clinic are confronted daily with protesters and sidewalk ‘counsellors’ trying to prevent them from accessing this important health service.”
Watson reiterated in his press statement that his “measures have been taken following” these media reports.
“Reproductive rights are human rights,” Watson said. “Anyone seeking or providing abortion services should have the right to do so without feeling harassed, threatened or afraid for their safety. This legislation would help ensure that those individuals have the protection they need.”
Significantly, Liberal Attorney General Naqvi responded that his ministry has been working for several weeks to “determine what options are available to the province in order to ensure that harassment at the Morgentaler clinic, and clinics across the province does not continue,” reported Metro News.
“I will have more to say once I have determined the best course of action,” he said in a Tuesday statement.
Campaign Life Coalition moved swiftly to denounce Watson’s move.
“Bubble zones are wrong and unnecessary,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, Ontario president for Campaign Life Coalition. “They are a direct attack on freedom of speech and expression, and the province shouldn’t give in to the demands of the abortion lobby.”
And the pro-life demonstrators outside Ottawa’s Morgentaler abortion facility on Banks Street say they’ve been the target of a smear campaign that has been uncritically reported by a biased mainstream media.
Shayla Hodson, director of the Morgentaler Clinic, claimed in April the demonstrators posed a threat to women entering the abortion centre, and that police were doing nothing.
Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick championed Hodson’s case, and the Ottawa Citizen followed suit.
Mallick reported as fact Hodson’s claims that pro-life witnesses were outside “harassing patients, their companions, and staff” with threats of physical attack.
And she described pro-life witnesses as “omnipresent and creepy, some unwell, and some threatening.”
She also raised the spectre of violence by questioning if the holy water a woman had on one occasion sprinkled in the hallway of the abortion centre might have been kerosene.
“The use of accelerants by protesters is increasing,” wrote Mallick. “Last week, a Toronto church was set on fire by a man using accelerant in a large water-dispensing bottle.”
But pro-life witness Cyril Winter, 69, told LifeSiteNews in an earlier interview that the reports were “vicious, lying and libellous.”
He said there is already a municipal bylaw prohibiting a group of pro-life demonstrators on the same street as the abortion facility, so he stands there alone.
And the media has it exactly backward about who’s a threat to whom, Winter told LifeSiteNews. “I get harassed all the time. And these articles have unleashed a torrent of abuse.”
Frank Barrett, an 89-year-old ex-RCMP officer who is also a frequently outside the abortion centre witnessing for life, likewise denounced Hodson's claims as “ridiculous untruths.”
Interestingly, Barrett was at the centre of another media storm when he arranged to have a pro-life flag raised at city hall for the March for Life.
The LifeSiteNews video of the dawn flag-raising provoked such a ferocious backlash — including a open letter by seven Ottawa councillors demanding the flag’s immediate removal — that Mayor Watson ordered flag taken down later in the day.
Watson had proclaimed May 14 “National March for Life Day in the Capital” and had issued a decree noting that “thousands of people from across Canada and the United States … come to Parliament Hill” to “bring awareness for the need for life-affirming solutions.”
But in the fury over the flag-raising, Watson quickly took to Twitter to establish his pro-abortion bona fides.
“My personal opinion has always been that women have the right to choose,” he tweeted. “I share your concerns & have asked for a review of our flag policy.”
But Watson’s request for a provincial bubble zone law will have far more serious and wide-ranging consequences than him washing his hands of a pro-life flag.
As Campaign Life’s national president Jim Hughes pointed out, a pro-life presence outside the abortion centres is vital.
“Because we live in a province that has not provided informed consent, the people who stand outside abortion facilities, praying or handing out information, are not harassing or threatening” he said. “They are providing information about fetal development and offering alternatives to abortion.”
Added Hughes: “There is no evidence that women seeking abortions are threatened or harmed. If anything, the only ones who feel threatened are the abortion providers and their affiliates who lose money every time a women decides not to have the abortion.”
Campaign Life is urging pro-life and freedom of speech advocates to contact Naqvi, who is also MPP for the area that includes Ottawa’s Morgentaler abortion facility, to express opposition to bubble zone legislation.
Rt. Hon. Yasir Naqvi
Ministry of the Attorney General
720 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2S9
Email: [email protected]
Queen’s Park office
Office of the Government House Leader
Room 223, Main Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A2
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