Nfld. & Labrador

'I don't care about the political fallout:' N.L. justice minister vows to provide better abortion access

Legislation being presented in the House of Assembly Thursday would keep anti-abortion protesters from demonstrating directly outside abortion clinics and doctors' homes.

Legislation would keep protesters 50 metres from any clinic, 160 metres from doctors' homes

Proposed legislation would mean anti-abortion protesters like these would have to keep their distance around abortion clinics, doctors' homes and offices. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Proposed legislation that aims to protect people seeking abortions and the people who provide them is making its way through Newfoundland and Labrador's House of Assembly.

The Access to Abortion Services Act would prohibit protesters from demonstrating, carrying signs or trying to dissuade women from getting abortions outside abortion clinics, doctors' homes and their offices.

Abortion is a legal service. It's a necessary. I stand by it.- Andrew Parsons

Speaking at a news conference announcing the proposed legislation, the justice minister said he's not worried about the political consequences of taking a stand on the divisive issue.

"I got to be honest, I don't really care. That's the best way I can put it. This is important. Abortion is a legal service. It's a necessary. It's a medical service. It has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. I stand by it," said Andrew Parsons.

"If there is political fallout, that's not something I have spent a lot of time thinking about."

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons outlines the contents of the new legislation at the Confederation Building in St. John's. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

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

The protected areas include the land on which an abortion facility is located and extends 50 metres outwards from that property.

For doctors who provide abortions, protesters would not be allowed within 160 metres of their homes.

The bill would ban the filming or photographing of patients, service providers or doctors inside the designated zones if it's done to dissuade someone from having an abortion. It also covers the stalking and harassing of individuals for the same purpose.

The justice minister expects the proposed legislation will become law before the end of this year.

Members of the NDP caucus applauded the proposal, but say more must be done to make abortions accessible to women across the province. Right now the service is only available in St. John's.
MHA Gerry Rogers calling on the province to improve access to abortion services in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"Women have to travel great distances — often at their own expense — for a legal medical service. We have to improve access to this medical service," said St. John's Centre MHA Gerry Rogers.