Safe Access Zones
Edited by Marc Eastmure
In June 2018, the NSW Government passed the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018 which introduced a 150-metre exclusion zone outside abortion clinics in NSW. These “safe access zones” make it illegal to communicate, film or interfere with a woman accessing or leaving abortion facilities. A person who commits such an offence may face fines of up to $10,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment.
This law responds to the harassment women and staff have faced from anti-abortion protestors that congregate outside abortion clinics. Safe access zones were thus enacted to protect women from experiencing potential distress or anxiety at such a vulnerable time in their lives.
The NSW Minister for Women, Tanya Davies opposed the bill arguing protestors are ‘sidewalk counsellors’ who help women make an informed decision. Another opponent of the bill was NSW Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Pru Goward who advocated safe access zones violate an individual’s freedom of speech.
Similar laws authorising safe access zones around abortion clinics exist in Tasmania, the ACT, the Northern Territory and Victoria. The Queensland Law Reform Commission recently completed a review of termination of pregnancy laws, which recommended the implementation of exclusion zones outside abortion clinics in QLD.
Currently, the High Court of Australia is hearing the case of Clubb v. Edwards & Anor which challenges the validity of Victoria’s safe access zone laws. Senior Lawyer, Adrianne Walters of the Human Rights Law Centre has stated this matter raises important questions about ‘balancing the rights of women seeking access to medical care and the implied freedom of political communication in the Constitution’.
Do safe access zones around abortion clinics sufficiently uphold civil and political rights?
Independent Australia, ‘Abortion and the ‘free speech’ myth’; The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘I’ve seen first hand why we need safe access zones around abortion clinics’
Green Left Weekly, ‘Safe access zones to become law in NSW'
The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘I’ve seen first hand why we need safe access zones around abortion clinics’
Lawyers Weekly, ‘ALHR supports call for safe access zones for abortions’
Eternity News, ‘Safe access zone bill passes NSW parliament’; United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’; The Telegraph, ‘Abortion clinic buffer zones set ‘dangerous precedent’ for freedom of speech, campaigners say’.
The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘I support the right to abortion but not the ‘safe access zones’ bill’
Eternity News, ‘Safe access zone bill passes NSW parliament’; United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’.