New laws introduced to stop harassment at abortion clinics

In Parliament | 30.03.17

New laws to protect women from harassment and intimidation outside reproductive health clinics were today introduced to the NSW Parliament by Labor MLC, Penny Sharpe. 

If passed, the laws will enact safe access zones of 150 metres around health services that provide family planning, reproductive health and abortion services in New South Wales. The zones will prohibit behaviour such as harassment, intimidation, interference, threats and obstruction, as well as barring recording of video and photos without consent. 

Women in NSW are currently subject to harassment and intimidation by organised groups and individuals who have appointed themselves as “sidewalk counsellors” to women and congregate outside clinics where abortions are provided, pushing brochures and signs at people with graphic and offensive images, getting in women's faces and blocking entry to clinics, calling women "child murderers" and threatening dire and ill-founded medical, spiritual and psychological consequences. 

Four Australian jurisdictions have recently passed laws that introduce 150m “safe access zones” around abortion clinics. In Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT the zones are in operation. It was only last week that the NT passed similar laws. 

The bill will be debated in coming months and Ms Sharpe is asking those who support safe access zones to sign an open letter to NSW Parliamentarians asking them to support the laws. Ms Sharpe is also asking people to anonymously share their experiences of attending these clinics: 

Quotes attributable to Penny Sharpe MLC 

“Women trying to access reproductive health advice and abortion clinics should not have to run the gauntlet of people who try to stop them with physical harassment and verbal abuse. 

“This behaviour should never be an acceptable occurrence in the lives of women or health service providers at work, but it is a daily occurrence in some places. 

“At a time of growing recognition of widespread violence and abuse towards women in Australia, it is indefensible to condone this kind of behaviour targeted at women – and it is directly aimed at women. 

“The law does not yet recognise the harm caused by these deliberate and targeted acts of intimidation and harassment, and the distress and anxiety they cause. We need laws that not only recognise the harm but also stop the behaviour. 

“There is strong support in the community for this change to the law. I ask that anyone who supports this change signs my open letter to Members of Parliament in NSW to demand they stop the harassment of women at abortion clinics in NSW.”