Yesterday, the ACT introduced new legislation which decrees there will be 50-metre exclusion zones around abortion clinics, preventing anti-abortion protesters from congregating and harassing women outside of ACT medical clinics.
The Health (Patient Privacy) Amendment Bill was introduced by Greens member Shane Rattenbury in July, who believes women should have access to abortion services without fear of abuse.
“This is fundamentally about a woman’s right to medical privacy,” he said, inviting would-be protesters to raise their concerns to the Legislative Assembly instead.
Anti-abortion protesters have been gathering outside abortion clinics for the past 16 years, according to Angela Carnovale of the Women’s Centre for Health Matters.
“Even silent vigils convey judgement,” she said.
The amendment is one step closer towards reproductive equality, as under current legislation, women do not have control over their own bodies. The NSW Criminal Code states that any person who obtains or assists with an unlawful abortion may be sentenced up to ten years imprisonment. The 1971 case of R v Wald set the precedent that an abortion is lawful if it was deemed necessary to protect a woman from serious danger to her life, self or mental health.
Basically, if a practitioner doesn’t believe a woman meets this criteria, she cannot get an abortion. This sets the dangerous precedent that women and their opinions do not matter—they are secondary to an unborn foetus, and therefore second-class citizens.
End 12 is a Greens pro-choice campaign that has long fought for exclusion zones around clinics, as well as the decriminalisation of abortion. It believes women have the right to choose without fear of prosecution or harassment. A survey by the Greens indicated 86% of Australians believe abortion should legalised, while 76% did not know abortion is a criminal offence.
Greens senator Larissa Walters believes these laws are archaic, dangerous and regressive.
“They have no place in modern society where women should always have their own control over their bodies.”
Exclusion zones are set to come into force in six months.