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Ontario to create safe zones around abortion clinics

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi says incidents of harassment at abortion clinics are unacceptable.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Women accessing services at abortion clinics in Ontario will be protected by safe zones around the facilities under new legislation planned by the provincial government in response to several incidents of harassment.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, who represents an Ottawa riding, said such incidents are unacceptable.

"Over the last month or so I've seen some serious instances of intimidation, harassment and even assault towards women who were trying to access abortion services and other reproductive healthcare services at a clinic in Ottawa," he said.

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In Ontario there are several court injunctions to restrict protests around certain clinics, but both British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador accomplish that through legislation.

"What became very clear to us, looking at the situation that took place in Ottawa, is that we do not have consistent protections across the province," Naqvi said.

"We feel very strongly that we need to bring a piece of legislation that will apply across the province to protect a woman in making sure that they have safe access to abortion and reproductive services."

Naqvi couldn't say yet how large a buffer zone around a clinic would be or what penalties would be incurred if it was violated, but he said he will consult with health care, legal and advocacy groups to develop legislation to introduce in the fall.

It's also important to balance the constitutional rights of women to have safe access to healthcare services and a right to protest, Naqvi said.

Catherine Macnab, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, says such legislation could give peace of mind to both patients and staff.

"For many years, people seeking reproductive services at clinics across Ontario have been subjected to escalating hostility and aggression, adding tremendous stress to what may be an already difficult time in their lives," she said in a statement.

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The Justice Minister says the government is moving to eliminate laws which the courts have deemed unconstitutional. One such law is the statute on abortion, which remains on the books despite being struck down in 1988. The Canadian Press
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