Western Australia Establishes Protest Free Safe Zones at Abortion Clinics

On August 12, 2021, the McGowan Government of Western Australia passed a law to establish safe zones around facilities that provide abortion and other reproductive health services. The bill comes as landmark legislation that will protect any woman who needs an abortion or reproductive health services.

Bill 2020, the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones), will ensure that women will have "safe and private access (and) without fear of harassment or intimidation" when undergoing abortions. The bill will establish a 150-meter (492 feet) Safe Access Zone around clinics or any establishment authorized to deliver abortions. The Safe Access Zone is effective all the time, with no exception for any downtime.

The Safe Access Zone will prohibit certain acts that were once legally allowed to be carried out across abortion clinics, including conducting demonstrations and picketing. According to Marie Stopes Midland, a healthcare provider that also provides Family Planning and abortion picketers, has been in attendance around their clinics for almost 2,300 hours yearly. These protesters have been harassing and targeting patients and staff.

Bill 2020 will prohibit harassment, intimidation, and threatening to areas where abortion services are being provided. It also prevents communicating anything to anyone concerning abortion to cause distress or anxiety. The bill will also consider it illegal to perform demonstrations, picketing, impeding roads leading to abortions clinics, and record by any means without proper or legal authorization. Violators will be subjected to 12 months imprisonment and a penalty of up to $12,000.

Jamal Hakim, managing director of Marie Stopes Australia, celebrated the bill's passing, calling it a "momentous day for human rights in Australia." Hakim added that "no one should fear being intimidated or harassed when accessing abortion and reproductive health services."

However, Human Rights Law Centre's Associate Legal Director, Adrianne Walters, is not content with the bill's passing. Walters acknowledges Western Australia's passing of the landmark bill but has also encouraged them to "modernize and decriminalize the state's abortion laws, which are outdated and causing harm."

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