Ontario Liberals reject move to pass abortion clinic protection bill

The Ontario Liberals have rejected a move to fast-track their own legislation to create harassment-free bubble zones around abortion clinics.

PCs propose immediate passage of bill to create safe zones around abortion clinics, but the Liberals refuse

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, right, and Status of Women Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris announce legislation to create protest-free safe zones around abortion clinics. (CBC)

The Ontario Liberals have rejected a move to fast-track their own legislation to create harassment-free bubble zones around abortion clinics.

The Liberals introduced the bill on Wednesday. It would prohibit people from showing anti-abortion signs, handing out literature, or trying to dissuade women from having an abortion within up to 150 metres of a clinic.  

The PCs put forward a motion Thursday morning to pass the bill immediately, but the Liberals refused. 

"While we will advocate for swift passage, we believe that healthcare professionals, women's groups and other advocates should have the opportunity to review the bill and provide input to strengthen the bill during the committee process," said a statement from Attorney General Yasir Naqvi.

The PCs are accusing Naqvi of hypocrisy because when he unveiled the bill on Wednesday, he said the government had already consulted widely during its drafting. 

An Ottawa police officer investigates a report of a disturbance in front of the Morgentaler Clinic on Bank Street in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

"Let's call it what it is, it's wedge politics," said Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod, who proposed the motion to pass the bill in one swift step.

"If they really wanted  to put women's safety first, then they would have either done this when the issue started arising over a year ago or they would have accepted my unanimous consent request and passed the motion today," MacLeod told reporters at the Legislature. 

The Liberals have often raised questions about PC leader Patrick Brown's views on abortion. In 2012, when he was a Conservative MP, Brown voted in favour of a parliamentary motion to study the Criminal Code definition of when a fetus becomes a human being.

"Kathleen Wynne has an agenda. That agenda is to re-open debates about divisive social issues," said Brown in a statement Wednesday about the abortion clinic safe zone bill.

"Let me be very clear: I am pro-choice. That includes protecting women exercising their rights from intimidation or harassment," said Brown in the statement.

Brown was not in the Legislature on Thursday to take questions from reporters. 

"You should be asking yourself, 'Why is it that the opposition, the Conservatives, want to push this through quickly?'" said the Minister for the Status of Women, Indira Naidoo-Harris.  

"I think that the leader of the opposition actually has been back and forth on this issue himself with his own track record," Naidoo-Harris told reporters at Queen's Park. "Maybe he doesn't want some of those voices in committee to be heard."