Nfld. & Labrador

Planned Parenthood hopeful new legislation will help clients, health care providers

Planned Parenthood is hopeful that legislation limiting the distance for protesters will help keep their clients and health care professionals safe from intimidation.

New rules keep protesters farther away from clinics, doctor's homes

Kim Drisdelle of Planned Parenthood Newfoundland and Labrador is hopeful new legislation limiting the distance for protesters outside abortion clinics and doctor's homes will make them feel safer. (Submitted photo)

A representative of Planned Parenthood in Newfoundland and Labrador is pleased with new proposed legislation that hopes to protect people seeking abortions and the people who provide them.

Bill 43 sets out a designated "safe access zone" for patients seeking abortion services.

Kim Drisdelle is the client services coordinator with Planned Parenthood in St. John's.

We view it as a huge leap for reproductive rights in this province.- Kim Drisdelle, Planned Parenthood NL

"We view it as a huge leap for reproductive rights in this province," Drisdelle told CBC's Central Morning Friday. "It is absolutely crucial for people to have access to safe health care without having intimidation, without judgement and without any other external barriers."

Drisdelle said the experience of people seeking an abortion accessing a clinic or doctor's office while wading through protesters could be stressful.

Pro-life protesters stand outside an abortion clinic in St. John's in this file photo. New legislation will keep them 50 metres away from clinics and 160 metres away from the homes of doctors. (Laura Howells/CBC)

She said while women seeking abortions report the service provided by physicians and caregivers is compassionate, caring and supportive, accessing that service has often been a difficult experience.

"The actual motivation they have had to have to get there, to walk through those protesters, has been incredibly intimidating," she said. "For many of them, it really has harmed their mental health."

The new rules will keep protesters at least 50 metres away from clinics, 160 metres from doctors' homes and 10 metres from doctors' offices.

The province says the aim of the legislation is to allow protests, while protecting the safety and privacy of patients.

"I think this is a really good start, it has started a really good conversation," she said.

Photographing patients also banned

Drisdelle is pleased the proposed legislation also bans the filming of patients, which she sees as a very beneficial to their privacy.

"Having protesters there who are already being incredibly judgemental and incredibly intimidating and, in many ways, bullying people who are trying to access health care that they have the right to access, and also taking pictures of them is such a huge invasion of their privacy."

New legislation will ban anti-abortion protesters from within 50 metres of this clinic in St. John's. (CBC)

Drisdelle said her group will continue to talk to clients to assess whether the distances in the legislation are adequate for their protection.

"I do believe in free speech; I do believe in protesting — it is part of being a resident in this wonderful country," she said.

"However, we do have to recognize that while we have to make sure our clients' privacy is being respected, the doctors and health care professionals providing these services … have every single right to feel their privacy is being respected."

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said earlier this week he  expects the proposed legislation will become law before the end of this year.

With files from Central Morning