‘Ludicrous’: Newfoundland gvmt moves to ban free speech outside abortion facilities
ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland, November 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is about to make it a little easier to get an abortion.
Last week, the Atlantic province’s Liberal government presented an abortion access bill in the House of Assembly, creating 10-meter protest-free zones around abortionists’ offices and 160-meter zones around their homes while enabling the cabinet to establish up to 50-meter zones around hospitals and clinics where abortions are done.
“It’s just ludicrous,”said Colette Fleming, who has been witnessing for unborn children outside the Athena abortion clinic for 25 years. “They claim we were harassing clients, stopping them from going into the clinic, standing outside the doctors’ homes. We didn’t do any of those things. We don’t know where the doctors live and we don’t want to know.”
She added, “But worse than that, nobody’s saying anything about the poor children. We believe 1,059 babies were aborted in 2015 in Newfoundland.”
A stripped-down version of a law enacted in 1996 by the New Democratic government of British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Bill 43 says no one can “protest,” threaten, chase, obstruct, or “physically interfere or attempt to interfere” with patients, doctors or staff inside any access zone, or record their identity with video or still cameras or even “sketching.”
The law comes with a maximum $5,000 fine or six months in jail for a first offense and between $1,000 and $10,000 or a year in jail for a second.
Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said he was indifferent to the objections of pro-lifers. “I got to be honest, I don't really care. That's the best way I can put it. This is important. Abortion is a legal service. It's a necessary. It's a medical service. It has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. I stand by it,” he said at a press conference.
Parsons committed himself to bring in the bill after St. John’s Athena clinic went to court to get a judge to put a 40-meter no-protest zone around it. The opposition New Democrats called for a legal access zone.
The New Democrats applauded the bill. “Women have to travel great distances — often at their own expense — for a legal medical service,” MHA Gerry Rogers said.
At the same time, feminist groups called for more protection.
“We’re already at 40 meters,” Fleming said. “Fifty meters won’t be that much further. We want to be close enough so they can see us. We are praying for the children, but we also hope to change the minds of the women. We want to save lives.”
Fleming said city pro-life volunteers have sent all members of the House of Assembly information about what abortion procedures involve. “We’re hoping and praying some of the MHAs will summon up a little courage.”
In British Columbia, the New Democratic government established 50-meter zones by cabinet order around a hospital and several private women’s clinics in Vancouver, allowing the 10-meter zone around doctors’ offices to cover the rest of the province. Pro-life activists challenged the constitutionality of the Vancouver zones but lost.
Once the NDP were ousted by the Liberals, no additional zones have been imposed. Since Victoria-area pro-lifers began mounting the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil outside the Vancouver Island Women’s Health Clinic five years ago, the NDP has been pressing the Liberal government for a bigger no-protest zone without success.
The clinic owners have alleged that pro-life vigil keepers have obstructed people from using nearby bus stops and intimidated patients, but no charges have ever been filed. However, pro-abortion counter-protesters have been arrested and cautioned for obstructing pedestrians, threatening, and stalking.