Newfoundland sets up bubble zone eliminating free speech outside province’s lone abortion facility

The St. John's abortion facility has dropped its lawsuit against pro-lifers after they agreed to a reduced, 40-meter zone.
Thu Jun 30, 2016 - 12:07 pm EST
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ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador, June 30, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Pro-lifers in the capital of Canada’s easternmost province have bargained down the terms of bubble zone injunction from 100 meters to 40 meters on either side of the Athena abortion center.

As part of the deal, the center dropped its lawsuit for unspecified damages resulting from the presence of pro-lifers with signs bearing such messages as “Love them both” above an image of a mother with her baby, “Abortion stops a beating heart” over a picture of a sleeping baby, and “Me. Still Me” below pictures of an unborn baby and a newborn.

The pro-life sign bearers have been present for 25 years outside this facility and its predecessor, but it recently moved to a new street with narrower sidewalks, which the operators claimed made the pro-life presence more intimidating.

As a result, said Colette Fleming, one of three people named in the injunction, the pro-life contingent responded to the increased complaints and began filming themselves, following the advice of police. “They told us to get it to protect ourselves, so that when people in the clinic call the police to complain about us, we will be able to prove them false. But we are not taking pictures of anyone going into the clinic. We are taking pictures of ourselves.”

Nonetheless, the center’s operators claimed the filming made their customers fearful.

In fact, that was the only evidence they gave to news media to support allegations of harassment and intimidation. Athena owner Rolanda Ryan said “the protesters are in front of the St. John's clinic at least two days a week, sometimes taking photographs of people going in and out.” The picture taking, she said, “is a huge, huge concern for us. … My patients are scared. ... There are people who are really concerned for their own safety.”

But Fleming noted that only recently have police been called, and they never have charged anyone or warned the pro-lifers on the scene. “We don’t stop anyone; we don’t speak to anyone unless they approach us. We just have our beautiful signs.”

However, Bob Simmonds, the lawyer representing the pro-lifers, told the CBC that his clients agreed not to fight the injunction if the “bubble zone” around the clinic was reduced from 100 meters to 40 meters, in order to avoid a lengthy court battle and the cross examination of the clinic’s upset clientele.

A source close to the pro-life side told LifeSiteNews that the optics of cross-examining women clients about how subjectively upset they were was not good. And “we wanted to be compassionate.” The abortion facility’s Dr. Mari-Lynne Sinnott told the CBC, “We're quite happy that from this day forward our patients are protected ... and our staff and our colleagues and ourselves will feel safe going to work every day and being able to do the work we do.”

British Columbia is the only province in Canada with legislated buffer zones automatically placed 10 meters from the property line around all abortion doctors’ offices. The provincial cabinet can place 50-meter zones around actual abortion centers and has done so in Vancouver. Ontario and Quebec courts have granted injunctions placing buffer zones around specific clinics.

Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition in Toronto told LifeSiteNews, “The other side won’t be happy until we are completely silenced. They cannot stand the fact that we still breathe and still condemn what they are doing as despicable.”

  abortion, bubble zone, freedom of speech, newfoundland

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