The safety, wellbeing and dignity of women seeking reproductive health care in Western Australia will be at risk over the next 40 days, as anti-abortionists commence a 40 day picket for Lent.
A group of anti-abortionists, referred to as ‘40 Days for Life’, have been given a permit to undertake a 'prayer vigil' outside Marie Stopes’ Midland clinic from 7am to 5pm daily for 40 days starting today. It is understood a similar permit has also been issued for a 40 day vigil outside the Nanyara Clinic in Rivervale.
Past 'vigils' have included anti-abortionists yelling abuse at staff, such as calling them ‘murderers’, patients and staff being stopped when trying to enter or exit the clinics and women being handed rosary beads, baby booties and leaflets that contain medically misleading claims.
Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that women should not be confronted with crowds of strangers criticising their decision to access private medical care.
“The McGowan Government must introduce safe access zone laws now so that no woman in Western Australia has to run a gauntlet of intimidation and harassment just to see their doctor.”
“The activities of anti-abortionists outside clinics have caused serious distress, fear and anxiety to patients and staff. There have been a number of instances of violence outside abortion clinics around Australia, including the murder of a security guard in Victoria," said Walters.
Safe access zones laws have been introduced in every other state and territory of Australia except for South Australia. They prohibit conduct such as harassment, intimidation and filming of patients and staff outside reproductive health clinics that provide abortion services.
“Safe access zones are a straightforward and sensible solution. It’s outrageous that in 2019 women in Western Australia face being harassed, blocked and filmed when trying to see their doctor. It’s difficult to understand how this behaviour has been allowed to continue for so long,” said Walters.
The High Court is currently considering a challenge to the constitutionality of aspects of Victoria and Tasmania’s safe access zone laws.
“Free speech is not a license to harm others with impunity. Our position is that sensible and proportionate safe access zone laws strike the right balance between the freedom of political communication and a woman’s right to privately and safely see her doctor,” said Walters.
For interviews call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519