Last Thursday, legislation for the introduction of safe access zones outside abortion clinics passed the NSW Upper House, meaning women are now on the verge of legal protection from hecklers when entering these facilities.
The bill proposes an exclusion zone of 150 metres around all NSW clinics, which would see anyone harassing women inside these areas faced with heavy penalties, including up to 12 months of jail time.
As reported by The ABC, it doesn’t just refer to protesting, with the legislation covering any kind of behaviour that is likely to cause distress or anxiety to someone entering a clinic. It would also make it a criminal offence to film or photograph anyone inside the zones without their permission, protecting staff and patients from being identified and shamed.
This kind of protection for women is already in place in Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT where abortion is legal, but since it’s still criminalised in NSW and Queensland, legislation like this has never been implemented.
Labor MP Penny Sharpe and National’s MP Trevor Khan co-sponsored the NSW bill, with Ms Sharpe fiercely defending a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health.
As reported by The ABC, Mr Khan also voiced his support for women in these situations during the Thursday night debate.
“Women should not be interfered with, they should not be intimidated or harassed anywhere, but certainly not near reproductive health clinics,” he said.
There has been an outpouring of support and encouragement from women in the community, who have taken to Twitter to rally behind the cause.
— We Support Women NSW (@WeSupportWomen) May 24, 2018
— Women’s Electoral Lobby, AU (@welaust) May 24, 2018
— Mehreen Faruqi (@MehreenFaruqi) May 24, 2018
However, the proposal has also been met with outrage from the pro-life camp, who claim the legislation would impede on their right to free speech.
The bill now goes to the Lower House, where it will be debated next month.