The safety, wellbeing and dignity of women seeking reproductive health services is a step closer to being protected in New South Wales through a bill that would guarantee safe access zones around abortion clinics.
Labor MLC, Penny Sharpe, and Nationals MLC, Trevor Khan, are co-sponsoring the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill, which will come before the Legislative Council today.
Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the bill was absolutely vital to protecting a woman’s right to safely access health services.
"For far too long, women in NSW have had to run a gauntlet of intimidation and abuse just to see their doctor. Safe access zones are a straightforward and sensible solution. It's mind-boggling that in 2018 women are harassed, blocked and filmed when trying to get to the clinic doors," said Ms Walters.
The bill would create 150 metre zones around medical clinics that provide abortions, where it will be unlawful to harass, intimidate or film people without consent, or to communicate about abortions in a manner likely to cause anxiety or distress.
Tasmania, Victoria, the ACT and Northern Territory already have safe access zones around abortion clinics.
Paul Nattrass, Practice Manager at The Private Clinic, a reproductive healthcare service in Sydney, said ensuring women have safe passage to reproductive healthcare will be a huge step forward in NSW.
"The creation of safe zones outside clinic entrances is vital to counter the aggressive and intimidating tactics used by anti-abortionists. No one should have to suffer the forceful, intrusive questioning of their medical treatment from a stranger in the street under any circumstances. The right to access health services safely and privately is fundamental to our society," said Mr Nattrass.
Abortion remains in the criminal statute books of New South Wales, with exceptions that enable women to access abortion services but place decision-making power in the hands of doctors. The bill does not seek to decriminalise abortion.
Ms Walters said it was also time for the NSW Government to decriminalise abortion and respect women as competent decision-makers over their own bodies and lives.
"It is simply unacceptable that women and their doctors still run the risk of prosecution for undertaking a safe medical procedure; a procedure that takes place every week in NSW and across Australia. The law is hopelessly out of step with modern clinical practice, community standards and women’s basic rights," said Ms Walters.
For interviews Adrianne Walters and Paul Nattrass or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519