“Free speech ends here” say demonstrators protesting against Ontario’s new bubble zone that keeps anti-abortion protests 50 metres away from abortion facilities. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Abortion clinic ‘bubble zones’ don’t stop pro-life voice

  • February 8, 2018
OTTAWA – The pro-life movement is not going away despite “bubble zones,” advocates vowed on the first day of Ontario’s new law against protests outside abortion clincs.

“We didn’t want the provincial government to think the pro-life movement was lying down,” said Johanne Brownrigg of Campaign Life Coalition as about 40 pro-lifers rallied Feb. 1 near the Morgentaler abortion facility in Ottawa.

“The Liberal government has drawn a line in the stand. Our response is: we are still not going away, we are not going to shut up, we are not going to be out of sight and out of mind.”

The Ontario’s Safe Access to Abortion Services stipulates that protesters who violate the 50-metre zone around abortion facilities could face fines up to $5,000 and imprisonment up to six months. Police were out Feb. 1 to patrol the new zone, which is marked by temporary signs and a line drawn in chalk on the Sparks St. mall. 

However, while the pro-life group marched outside the zone, a half dozen counter-protestors stood inside the zone across the street from the Morgentaler abortion facility.

“They can go where they want and we can’t,” said Patricia Maloney. “We’re like second-class citizens. They have rights and we don’t. There’s nobody there now to give a counter-witness.”

Suzanne Fortin, an Ottawa mother and blogger, said she joined the protest outside the zone to “stand up for my right to free speech.”

“This law is about making sure pro-lifers don’t reach the women who enter the clinic,” she said. “The fact that it is so extreme tells me that it’s not about ending harassment, but ending protest.”

Brownrigg said Ontario’s legislation, like the federal Liberal government’s required pro-abortion attestation for the Canada Summer Jobs program, “transcends abortion,” because both strike at fundamental rights of freedom of expression, of religion and of conscience. 

“No one should ever be intimidated or have to fear for their safety while accessing abortion services,” said Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi in a Feb. 1 news release. “These changes will have a far-reaching impact on patients, providers and communities across the province, helping to ensure these spaces are safer and more secure for everyone.”

Maloney disagrees that anyone going into the Morgentaler facility has been harassed or intimidated. Though Ottawa was considered “ground zero” for the law because of media reports of “people with sandwich boards” spitting at and intimidating women going into the clinic, Maloney said she filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for police calls regarding the Morgentaler clinic and found no charges were ever laid.

Fortin pointed out those taking part in the annual 40 Days for Life vigil across the street from the Morgentaler clinic have never harassed anyone.

Women are being robbed of an opportunity to get information about the choices other than abortion available to them, Brownrigg said. They are also robbed of “informed consent,” because they are not told of the health effects of abortion, ranging from the increased risk of breast cancer to psychological effects.

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