Canada province to ban anti-abortion protests and create "safe zones" outside clinics

Natasha Salmon
Police walk around abortion protestors holding up placards outside the Marie Stopes clinic, the first private clinic to offer abortions to women in Belfast, Northern Ireland: Getty Images

A Canadian province is preparing legislation that will ban protests outside abortion clinics.

Ontario’s attorney general announced the government will introduce the ban under the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act.

If the legislation is passed it would create “safe access zones” around clinics, pharmacies that sell pregnancy–ending pills and also the homes of people who work there.

Activists holding anti-abortion protests would not be allowed within at least 50 meters of a clinic or staff residence.

Other Canadian provinces, British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have already enacted the safe access zone laws.

“Our government is standing up for every woman's right to choose, and protecting the safety of abortion service providers,” said Yasir Naqvi, Ontario's Attorney General in a statement.

“The proposed safe access zones would mean that patients, visitors and staff are able to enter and depart from clinics and facilities that provide abortion services in a manner that protects their safety, security, health and privacy.”


Within another application the safety zones could be extended from 50m to 150m and the law would allow all hospitals and pharmacies that provide abortion services to apply for a safe zone.

In addition to the zone around clinic staff's residence, the law would protect clinic staff from “harassment” everywhere they go in Ontario.

Those convicted of violating the law would face a fine of up to £3,000 Canadian dollars (£1,800) or $5,000 (£3,000) and up to six months in prison for a first offence.

For subsequent offences the fine could exceed $10,000 (£6,100) and up to one year in jail.

Mr Naqvi said he was moved to act when a woman was spat on outside an Ottawa clinic where protesters frequently gather, carrying graphic signs and chanting slogans.