Kensington Clinic wants province to better protect women from harassment of anti-abortion protesters
Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says province is considering creating legislation
Abortion providers at Calgary's Kensington Clinic want the province to create laws to protect women seeking the service from being harassed by protesters.
Clinic executive director Celia Posyniak says she has been dealing with anti-abortion protesters since the day the clinic opened in 1991.
"First day I came to work there was probably 100 people already out front," she said.
The harassment has continued throughout the clinic's existence. Just this week, more than a dozen anti-abortion protesters gathered outside. The Calgary chapter of the anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life encourages protesters to sign up for daily shifts outside the clinic.
Court injunction regularly breached
A court injunction obtained by the clinic in 2003 requires demonstrators to stay across the street from the clinic and not gather in groups of five or more. But Posyniak says protestors regularly breach that court order.
"I got exasperated by the escalation," she said. "Frequently calling police. There are no consequences, police just send people away. Sometimes as soon as people leave they violate the order again."
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Posyniak says officers have even told her if protesters disobey police orders, they're not sure what they are able to do.
In a statement, Calgary Police Service said their first priority is to protect public safety and order, while also upholding the fundamental freedoms of thought, belief, opinion, expressions and of peaceful assembly.
"When there is a breach, the order requires our officers to first notify protestors of the order and give them reasonable time to comply with it before any enforcement action can be taken," the statement read.
"If a protestor complies with the order after an officer has spoken to them, no further action can be taken."
'Women deserve privacy'
Posyniak called the situation a vicious circle without consequences.
"I think women deserve privacy when they are accessing healthcare. They do not need to be bullied and harassed by religious zealots or anybody else who doesn't agree with their personal, intimate decision," she said.
In a Facebook post earlier this week, Posyniak called on supporters to write letters to Alberta's health minister to enact legislation to better protect clinic patients and its staff.
British Columbia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador all have laws that create safe zones, or bubbles, around abortion clinics.
Alberta considering legislation to protect clinics
On Thursday, Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said she's considering the possibility of similar legislation in this province.
"We strongly support women's reproductive health options, and are committed to making sure women are able to access abortion services safely," she said.
"My office has heard concerns from patients and staff that harassment is an issue. This is unacceptable and something that we will continue discussing with stakeholders."
CBC News reached out to organizers from the Calgary chapter of 40 Days for Life, who protested in front of the clinic earlier this week. They have not responded.
With files from Kate Adach