Manitoba

NDP introduces bill to create no-protest zones around Manitoba abortion providers

The Manitoba New Democrats say a protest-free zone around health-care facilities that provide abortions does not infringe upon people's rights to hold demonstrations against the procedure.

MLA Nahanni Fontaine says bill would strengthen access and protect health workers from abuse

The NDP's Nahanni Fontaine has introduced a bill to create buffer zones around health-care facilities where abortions are provided. (Warren Kay/CBC )

The Manitoba New Democrats say a protest-free zone around health-care facilities that provide abortions does not infringe upon people's rights to hold demonstrations against the procedure.

Opposition member Nahanni Fontaine introduced a private members' bill Thursday that calls for protesters to be banned from coming within buffer zones around abortion clinics and hospitals.

She does not believe such a law would fail a potential legal challenge.

"Listen, if anyone knows me you'll know that I'm fond of a good protest," Fontaine said.

"I understand the need and the right of individuals to protest for something that they feel is important to them, I get that, I support that. What I'm saying is that protests should not impact on Manitoba women's and girls' right. It is a human right to access reproductive health."

Pro-choice ralliers gather at the Manitoba Legislative Building in 2013. People against abortion stood across the grounds from them. (Patricia Sauzede-Bilodeau/CBC)

Fontaine said the law would protect the safety of women who seek abortions and shield the people who provide them by prohibiting protesting, demonstrating or picketing within certain areas.

The buffer zones would also extend to the private residences and offices of health care workers who offer abortion services.

Ontario, Alberta already took steps

If passed, Manitoba would follow in the steps of other provinces.

In May 2017, the Ontario government introduced legislation following cases of harassment and Alberta has passed a similar law.

Fontaine said she's driven women seeking an abortion to the HSC Women's Hospital on Notre Dame Avenue and they've been shouted at by the protesters who often station themselves outside the facility.

That isn't fair to the women and girls who made the difficult decision to have an abortion, she said.

"We have to have a balance so that people that are choosing [an abortion] have the right to be safe and free of harm and harassment." 

Questioned about the proposed law, justice minister Cliff Cullen said he couldn't comment on what he hadn't read.

Protests not us, says anti-abortion group

Life's Vision Manitoba, an anti-abortion advocacy group, said in a statement its members rely on peaceful, friendly dialogues to advance their stance, but they do not take part in demonstrations.

"Unfortunately, we have fewer opportunities to participate in dialogue and provide education due to certain views that are promoted within society," the statement read.

"We certainly see a need to educate people about the negative impact that abortion has in our society, including a mother's mental, physical and emotional health."

Any private members bill introduced by the NDP must receive at least some support from the ruling Progressive Conservatives, which hold a majority in the Manitoba legislature.

With files from The Canadian Press 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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