Safe zones being considered for abortion clinics

A feminist lobby group says moves to consider implementing safe zones at WA abortion clinics are a “wonderful thing”.

The McGowan Government released a discussion paper yesterday about safe access zones around premises that provide abortion services in Western Australia.

Womens Electoral Lobby leader of reproductive rights Mary O’Sullivan said she welcomed the decision.

“We think it is a wonderful thing and also something WA can do without any constitutional issues,” she said.

The proposal explored how to ensure patients could access women’s health services without harassment or fear.

Health Minister Roger Cook said occurrences of individuals being confronted by protestors caused anxiety and distress for patients and staff.

“The McGowan Government believes all patients in Western Australia have a right to safety, privacy and respect when accessing health care,” he said.

“This reform will mean women in WA can attend abortion clinics for a legal medical procedure without enduring protestors hurling abuse,” Mr Cook said.

Ms O’Sullivan said she accepted people had a right to voice their opinions, but she disagreed with the way it was being done.

“I understand in some clinics in Western Australia, there is a history of people who believe that they need to not only express their concerns about abortion, which they have a perfect right to do, but to express those concerns individually and personally to women accessing abortion or reproductive health clinics,” she said.

Woman’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk said she wanted women to have access to good health care, including responsible family planning.

“There is a need for government intervention to better regulate and manage protestors around abortion clinics to ensure women have access to legal medical procedures without intimidation or harassment,” she said.

“The introduction of safe access zones will maintain the rights of women to privacy and safety during what is likely a very difficult time,” Ms McGurk said.

According to the press release, safe access zones have already been implemented in other states across Australia.

Last week, the High Court confirmed the constitutional validity of safe access zone legislation in Victoria and Tasmania.

Ms McGurk said she encouraged the WA public to have their say on how these zones could best be implemented.

The proposal is open for public comment.

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