The Manitoba Legislative Building.

Abortion ‘buffer zone’ bill defeated in Manitoba

  • October 16, 2021

Pro-life forces in Manitoba scored a victory on Oct. 14 when an NDP bill seeking to create a protest buffer zone around facilities providing abortions was voted down in the provincial legislature.

"We congratulate Progressive Conservative MLAs for defeating this bill by a vote of 30 to 20 that specifically targeted pro-life speech,” said  Maria Slykerman,  president of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) Manitoba. “Censorious 'bubble zone' legislation has no place in a free and democratic society. By voting to shut down this anti-free speech and pro-abortion bill, the Manitoba legislature has upheld fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to free speech and expression, and the right to peaceful assembly." 

Bill 207, the Abortion Protest Buffer Zone Act, was the second attempt to create a “bubble zone” outside hospitals and abortion clinics, and within 50 metres of schools. A similar bill was voted down in 2018. 

“One of the obvious issues with this buffer zone law is how one-sided it is. The bill prohibits showing disapproval of abortion, but not approval of it,” Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for We Need a Law, a national pro-life advocacy group, said in a statement. “This means two women could stand side by side, one with a sign that says ‘ don’t regret my abortion’ and the other with a sign that says ‘I regret my abortion,’ and only the latter is illegal, despite both being a statement of personal experience.”

NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine, who introduced the bill, told reporters after the vote that it was “a shameful day in Manitoba politics, one that women will not soon forget.”

“I will continue to introduce this bill until we have law that protects all Manitobans accessing abortion health care and all Manitobans who provide that service,” she said.

Ewert insisted the bill did nothing to protect women.

“It is already illegal to intimidate or harass women, regardless of where they are,” said Ewert. “All this does is prevent women from hearing one specific viewpoint: that ‘human rights for all human beings’ extends to the smallest human beings, those in the womb.

“Every woman deserves to have access to information about abortion. Not just information an abortion clinic might give her about the actual procedure, but information about the humanity of the pre-born child and the availability of support should she wish to parent.”

Bubble zone laws have been passed in many Canadian provinces, including Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. 

"Now that Manitoba has shown principled leadership on free speech, we urge Premiers (Doug) Ford in Ontario and (Jason) Kenney in Alberta to follow suit by introducing government bills to repeal similar legislation that censors pro-life speech and criminalizes the constitutionally-protected actions of pro-life citizens," said Josie Luetke, CLC's youth co-ordinator.

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