Our bodies. Our health.
Women need safe access zones.

Sign the open letter to NSW parliamentarians seeking their support to provide safe access zones around reproductive health clinics.

Dear Members of the Parliament of NSW,

Women across NSW are subject to harassment and intimidation by individuals and organised groups when attempting to access health clinics that provide abortion, reproductive health services, cancer screening and other contraceptive services.

Self-declared sidewalk counsellors wait outside these clinics and behave in a threatening and intimidating manner by:

  • pushing brochures at those trying to enter the clinic with graphic, inaccurate and offensive images

  • taking photos and video without permission

  • physically blocking entry to clinics

  • calling women "child murderers"

  • threatening dire and ill-founded medical, spiritual and psychological consequences if women enter a clinic

  • harassing staff at these clinics

At some clinics, threats and intimidation are a daily occurrence. All women deserve the right to enter all health facilities free from harassment and with their privacy protected. In NSW, women do not have this right.

Three Australian jurisdictions - Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT - have successfully introduced 150 metre safe access zones around reproductive health clinics.

We must do the same here in NSW.

I urge you to support the Summary Offences Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill when it comes before the NSW Parliament this year.

Women in NSW deserve nothing less.

Yours sincerely

Add my name to the letter.
I support safe access zones for women.

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Share Your Story

Have you had experience trying to enter clinics in NSW? Your story will help us convince MPs why safe access zones are so important. You will not be identified.

Shared Stories

followed this page 2017-04-19 12:10:07 +1000
2017-04-10 20:18:42 +1000
I was trying to enter an abortion clinic in Surry Hills in 2015 for my procedure. I was harassed by a woman, who not only shoved gruesome photos of fetuses in my face, but also verbally abused me, including saying “that I was making the biggest mistake of my life”. I should not be abused for making a decision for myself and my body. It is nobody else’s place to judge me for having an abortion, including the woman I encountered that day. I support safe access zones because women deserve respect and should not be attacked when they are undergoing what is ultimately a very emotionally and physically draining experience.
2017-04-06 20:13:47 +1000
Hey!


Whilst studying at uni, I worked for a telemarketer on Elizabeth st in Sydney.

Every Saturday morning several men in their 50s or 60s and a handful of young women under 25 would picket and harass women accessing health services.


This was normalised by my male co-workers who understood it as “a hassle for them” (the women) and “nutty church stuff” but something they felt they didn’t have to do anything about.


This sight and these actions were easy to discount and trivialise as extreme but it was horrible to see all the women’s own judgement of themselves being undermined and outsourced to the aggressively caring and Holy Males.


These girls and women have spoken with experts.


It also compounded the propaganda I continue to be fed by the media and some religious places that conflate God the Father with actual fatherhood


Generally, in social and public spaces, when they attack your genitals, maybe you’ve got to leave the room?


How, I think to myself in more exasperated moments, can one gender be so encouraged to subjugate, dominate, consistently undermine and dehumanise girls and women, so much so, that they would put that lack of trust in their own judgement INTO LAW…. and then call it respect, or then call it love?


Respect is love. Love is not hate.

Queers are the best.


It is very easy for me to look at these older men picketing, who have naturalised their privelege, manhood and indeed partnership through certain ideas about subjugation, hit their 50s and get more aggressive with this undermining dynamic. It’s very easy for me to look at the young women and see that they don’t yet understand that these men do not love them or acknowledge them as fully formed women here.


Only female death rates increase with criminalising abortions. I hope you can see that the dynamic described above is just a naturalised habit of men trying to control, subjugate and make dependent that which they desire.


It’s as natural as my male co-workers not caring about it very much. It doesn’t affect them directly (it actually serves them if they want to be a manly Australian).


Controlling, regulating, devaluing and harrassing a vagina (not a fully formed woman) is not an entitlement and it shouldn’t be normalised.


Please get these people away from those that would claim their own personhood; their own body; their own judgement; their own humanity.


Regards,

Nat
2017-04-06 09:52:38 +1000
I have been seriously disturbed by protesters going into a termination alone and every day I had to walk past them near my home years later.
2017-04-06 08:53:10 +1000
In the 80’s I attended a clinic with my mother. I was 18, pregnant and scared. My boyfriend, now husband of nearly 30 years was at his job fretting. The monsters out the front of the clinic had lined the footpath on both sides. They were loud and pushy, shoving big posters at us and placing brochures in our faces. They were calling us names, invoking bible passages at us and jostling us. My mother shielded me as best she could. We did not engage them, there was no point for as far as they are concerned they are right and you are wrong. The people in the clinic were wonderful, I do not in any way regret my abortion or think about it in a negative way, I was counselled and firm in my mind that I could not care nor provide for a baby. What still scares me and gives me nightmares are the awful people who abused and tried to stop me from attending the clinic. They didn’t know me or my story – why I was there, yet they stood in judgement of me, abused me and told me what I had to do with my body. I was 18, of legal age to drink alcohol, I could drive a car and vote. My Government had deemed me an adult. Yet these people tried to take away my rights as a human being, my right to my body. To force me to do as they wanted.


These people are still attending this clinic and others like it, yet today they are more fervent than ever. With technology they have more information. They have higher grade pictures. They have videos. They are louder and listen to no-one.


A decision to have an abortion is not one taken lightly. You don’t just wake up one day and think “I’m bored what can I do? I know I’ll go and have an abortion” It is a personal decision between a woman and herself, her body which she has controlled all of her life. It is a hard decision. It is a decision which takes time to make. It is no-one else’s decision but the woman making it.


I am lucky, I had the love, support and strength of my mother and my partner to help me through my trauma. Every now and then I still wake up in a cold sweat amongst a sea of faces abusing me and calling me a murderer. This needs to stop. These people need to stop.
2017-04-05 22:08:40 +1000
I need to go to a clinic soon to get my IUD replaced. When I told my doctor that I wanted to go to a clinic so that I could be sedated he warned me that there will be people outside harassing all people going to the clinic. I am so angry that this is still a thing that women need to worry about. I hope they try something with me because I am not scared I am angry, and I am ready.
2017-04-05 15:45:09 +1000
I work next door to a clinic and have confronted these vile protestors on many an occasion. The most significant was one vile beast reducing a Muslim man to tears. He was supporting his partner and they had obviously made a hard decision. He didn’t need to be called a killer. I intervened, took photographs, called the police, and made a statement. People accessing health care need to get the advice of doctors, not protestors. If you want to fight opinions, do it on neutral turf, not at a medical setting.
2017-04-05 09:51:37 +1000
My grandmother conceived my mother at a time when she didn’t know how she would be able to provide for her baby inside her. She carried my mother and gave birth to her. Mum was adopted into a beautiful family. Now she is working in a field where she treats people with depression and saves lives everyday.
2017-04-04 15:53:21 +1000
Mine is not a negative story. In fact, at 7.15 in the morning when I arrived at my clinic near Central no one was there to attack me as I entered. I was nervous (though perhaps more because this was the first time I’d be going under GA). But not having anyone heckling me meant that my experience was actually really positive. I was not shamed by my decision to protect myself and control a situation I did not want. From GP to clinic, the process was easy and I found I had no mental side effects after the procedure. Granted it happened, I can’t ignore that – but I carried no unnecessary anxiety. But for om my friends, I’ve heard no other’s story that was this lucky, and each one battled regret, pain, or a longer adjustment back to normal life. I can only think that these “side-walk counsellors” had something to do with it. I want more women to have the experience I had, which at the time was just damn luck that no one wanted to be standing on the street on a cold wet winter’s morning. I’m still disappointed that our State hasn’t corrected their archaic abortion laws… this is the least they can do to protect women (and their partner who may accompany them) and ensure safe abortions are possible, accessible, and that undue stress is not brought on to what is already a hard decision women have to face.
2017-04-04 11:49:11 +1000
I had a termination in the 80s. One of the worst aspects of that day was having to run the gauntlet of a bunch of god bothering lunatics who stood outside the Surry Hills clinic, waving posters, screaming and generally adding an insane level of distress to an already stressful situation. It was unforgivable and it should not be allowed
2017-03-31 09:41:33 +1100
I often walk down past an abortion clinic situated on Devonshire St. where I encounter a number of very ugly neanderthals (mostly men & the poster female person) who proscribes their vainity of self rigteous patriachal bigotry. That their proselytising is right and just to harass, villify and shame women as they go into the clinic.

One more insult for women who are, who have to be the one who is ‘responsible’ ‘to take precautions’ in a mans world and men’s law that is still on the statutes that abortion is illegal.

It’s time women of Australia, it’s time.

For my part in harassing them at every opportuunity I sing to them my condom song, and they still dont get it.
2017-03-30 10:58:15 +1100
When I had to take my daughter to a clinic we were filmed and abused by people standing outside. My daughter was terrified and I was just so angry about it. I mean how dare they attack us like that. It felt so personal. Still makes my blood boil!
2017-03-30 10:50:27 +1100
I’ve been to a clinic in NSW with my partner, and as soon as these people with their signs could see we were going inside they just swarmed on us. They basically blocked the door and my partner had to push ahead of me to try and stop them from getting at me until we got inside. It was very physical and scary, lots of yelling and everything. They really stressed us both out, it was horrible.

Want to know more about Safe Access Zones?

What is the current situation in New South Wales?

Women in NSW are currently subject to harassment and intimidation by self-declared “sidewalk counsellors” when attempting to access health services that provide family planning, reproductive health and abortion services.

Organised groups and individuals have appointed themselves as coercive counsellors to women and congregate outside clinics where abortions are performed pushing brochures 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.

This has been a particular problem at clinics in Surry Hills and Albury in most recent times, although this harassment occurs at most clinics.

In NSW, abortion is regarded as lawful if performed to prevent serious danger to the woman’s mental and physical health, which includes economic and social pressures.

This is a health service for the well-being of women, but it is a health service at which women are regularly interfered with by so-called “sidewalk counsellors”. No other health service attracts this personal harassment and abuse directed at patients.

Why do we need safe access zones for women seeking health services?

Behaviour that intimidates, harasses, leads to fear or anxiety or distress should never be an acceptable occurrence in the lives of women or health service providers at work. Many women and employees report being shoved, abused, threatened and forced to view, by direct intrusion, completely misleading, offensive and graphic pictures or props such as dismembered fetuses as they attend reproductive health clinics.

Medical privacy is a highly regarded principle of our health system, regardless of the type of health service being provided. However, for this particular health service women are routinely harassed, intimidated, hindered and sometimes blocked from the entrance of services or filmed and recorded going about their business, causing distress or anxiety. This is an unacceptable interference with modern health care in Australia.

Put simply, without this bill, many women will be unable to safely access legitimate and legal medical procedures or even simply medical advice. That has to change.

Why don’t the current laws work?

Current laws require a very high bar of criminal behaviour to be reached before police officers can intervene in the type of acts committed by “sidewalk counsellors” who intimidate women. The result is often police simply talking to the assailant rather than stopping them from acting or taking any action to prosecute, unless a violent or physical altercation has occurred.

The law does not yet recognise the harm committed by these deliberate and targeted acts of intimidation and harassment, and the distress and anxiety they cause. We need laws that do.

Do safe access zones restrict free speech and freedom to protest?

No.

Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are rights that all modern democracies support and uphold, as we do in NSW. This bill does not interfere with that – let’s be clear, the behaviour and actions of “sidewalk counsellors” outside reproductive health clinics is not protest or the type of speech that is acceptable in any other circumstance, it is simply the intimidation and harassment of individual women who are accessing a medical service.

More so, this proposition has been tested multiple times in courts of the USA and Canada, and each time a sensible and limited safe access zone (such as proposed by this bill) was legally tested, the judge found there were no rights being infringed, and upheld the law.

It has also been confirmed by numerous respected legal authorities including the Law Society of NSW and the Human Rights Law Centre that safe access zone laws such as this are consistent with human rights law.

No one is suggesting that people cannot speak out about their views on abortion or protest against abortion if they wish to, but the place to do that is in front of Parliament where the decisions are made about the laws that govern health services like abortion – not by harassing or abusing women on the footpath outside the clinics they are seeking to enter.

The right of women to go about their daily business, whether that be attending a medical appointment or otherwise, without being harassed or interfered with by another person, is a fundamental right, and a right that should be placed above any other person’s supposed right to try to tell women how to go about their daily business.

Have safe access zones been introduced anywhere before?

Four Australian jurisdictions – Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and the NT – have recently passed laws that introduce “safe access zones” around abortion clinics. All involve a 150 metre zone.

In these areas, clinicians and staff have reported attending their workplaces without being harassed, abused, or in fear for the first time in their careers. They also report they now have the sort of proper, private and dignified access to their health service available for their patients, which is how medical services should always be provided.

It has also transformed the behaviour of those carrying out the harassment of women from “sidewalk counselling” to a valid form of activity to which citizens have a right: public protest. Previously, the activities outside health clinics in these states, and still occurring in New South Wales, represented intimidation and harassment of individual women, not protest.

What will Penny Sharpe’s bill do?

The bill is short and very simple. It will create new offences by prohibiting certain behaviour within a radius of 150 metres of a reproductive health clinic where abortions are provided.

The new laws will direct that a person who is in a safe access zone must not harass, intimidate, interfere with, threaten, hinder, obstruct or impede, by any means, any person accessing, leaving, or attempting to access or leave, any reproductive health clinic at which abortions are provided.

The bill will also stop people from obstructing a footpath or road leading to reproductive health clinics, or make a communication that is reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety to those accessing, leaving, or attempting to access or leave, or is inside a clinic.

The laws will also prohibit people from intentionally capturing visual data (a recording) of another person, by any means, without that other person's consent, if that other person is in a safe access zone and is accessing, leaving, or attempting to access or leave, or is inside, a reproductive health clinic at which abortions are provided. Publishing or distributing a recording will also be barred under the laws.

Importantly, the laws will not impact on gathering at or outside the Parliament of NSW, nor the carrying out of preparations for elections such as surveys and distributing information leaflets.

How can I get involved to help end the harassment of women seeking health services?

Sign the open letter at www.womenneedsafeaccesszones.com to send a message to Members of Parliament that women need safe access zones for reproductive health services and that the community demands that we end the harassment of women using these services.

In addition, if you have experienced this sort of intimidation or harassment yourself, you can make a powerful contribution by sharing your story (anonymously) on the website to show MPs and the community that this behaviour exists, that it is unacceptable, and that women need safe access zones.