Ontario to ban pro-life activity outside abortion centers starting Feb. 1
TORONTO, December 19, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Ontario’s ban on pro-life speech outside the province’s eight abortion centers takes effect February 1, 2018, the government confirmed in a letter last week.
But Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes says the law won’t stop pro-life advocates reaching out to women facing difficult pregnancies who may think abortion is their only option.
“If the government and the abortion industry think this is going to deter us, they have no idea,” he told LifeSiteNews.
Ontario MPPs passed Bill 163, or Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, October 25, just three weeks after Attorney General Yasir Naqvi tabled it. All three major parties agreed to fast-track the legislation.
Naqvi then sent a letter December 15 to the groups his ministry consulted in the summer on the legislation, informing them Bill 163 comes into force February 1, pending finalization of regulations on its implementation.
Campaign Life Coalition was among those groups consulted, and along with Alliance for Life Ontario and Association for Reformed Political Action Canada, denounced the Liberals for a bill that violates Charter rights and is based on scant evidence.
Campaign Life also opposed the bill during the one-day public hearings, and delivered thousands of signed petitions against it.
Nevertheless, MPPs, as well as the mainstream media, stuck to the narrative that pro-lifers were “harassing” women outside abortion facilities, and only MPP Jack MacLaren, a member of the Trillium Party, voted against it.
Naqvi reiterates in his letter, posted on Campaign Life Coalition’s website, that Bill 163 automatically bans all pro-life activities within 50 meters of the eight abortion facilities in Ontario, a distance that may be increased up to 150 meters.
“The names, addresses, and size of the safe access zones for clinics will be listed in a regulation under the Act for information purposes,” he writes.
Criminal acts inside these zones include:
- advising a person to refrain from accessing abortion services;
- abortion-related protests;
- physically interfering with or intimidating persons accessing or providing abortion services,
- recording patients or providers (e.g. taking photos or video).
Hospitals, health care centers, and pharmacies — which can now dispense the abortion pill — can apply for “bubble zones” of up to 150 meters.
“If a request for a safe access zone around a facility is granted, the location and size of the zone will be listed in a regulation under the Act,” wrote Naqvi.
“Information regarding how to submit requests for safe access zones to my ministry will be available on the government’s website on February 1, 2018.”
Bill 163 also automatically establishes zones of 150 meters outside the homes of “protected service providers,” defined as “all clinic staff and doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who provide abortion services,” Naqvi reiterates.
The bill criminalizes “certain activities that are directly targeted at or are about a clinic staff member or health professional who lives in the home.”
These could include “persistently requesting that the provider refrain from providing abortion services, or physically interfering with or intimidating the provider for the purpose of dissuading them from providing abortion services,” he writes.
However, these locations “will not be listed in a regulation.”
The bill also “prohibits harassing conduct anywhere in Ontario that is directed at clinic staff and regulated health professionals who provide abortion services,” notes Naqvi.
The penalty for a first conviction under Bill 163 is a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or a maximum jail sentence of six months. These are doubled for second and subsequent convictions.
Naqvi introduced the bill at the request of Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, who in turn was responding to lobbying by staff at Ottawa’s Morgentaler abortion center, and Planned Parenthood Ottawa, both of which alleged pro-lifers were “harassing” women.
“This law is the first step in silencing and criminalizing speech that is not the official opinion of the state. The whole process of fast-tracking this bill, and slandering pro-life people throughout, was a shame,” Hughes said at the time.
Campaign Life is considering a number of responses to the “totalitarian law” including a possible constitutional challenge, he told LifeSiteNews.
And pro-life advocates have been on the streets saving lives ever since the floodgates opened to abortion on demand when Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government passed the Omnibus Bill in 1969, he stressed.
“We will come up with new strategies to care for women and their pre-born babies outside abortion facilities,” Hughes said.
“We will continue to help them until, to take a phrase from 40 Days for Life founder David Bereit, ‘no more babies die, and no more women cry’.”