Demonstrating outside the 50-meter bubble zone surrounding the Morgentaler abortuary on Bank Street in the nation’s capital, the pro-life advocates carried signs calling attention to the restricted free speech zone: “Aid to women ends here” and “Free speech ends here.”
Bill 163 was passed last October and the law bans all pro-life witness, including showing disapproval of abortion, within 50 meters of the province’s eight abortion centers, and within 150 meters of the homes of abortion providers. The law can also apply to hospitals and pharmacies that apply for a so-called safe-access zone, and the zone can be as large as 150 meters from the facility property boundaries. Individuals convicted of a first offence can be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed up to six months. These punishments double for a second and subsequent convictions.
Johanne Brownrigg, Campaign Life Coalition’s Ottawa political lobbyist, said the protest “show(ed) a resistance to this government that we were not going to take this bubble zone demarcation lying down.”
CLC said in a statement the day before the law took effect: “We must remember that although this law infringes upon our rights and freedoms, the real victims here continue to be the pre-born children, their moms, and families. Women need to hear our message of truth and support. We must not abandon them.”
In a press release, CLC condemned the “totalitarian” law. “This law is criminalizing speech that is not the official opinion of the state,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, Ontario president of Campaign Life Coalition. “This overreaching law has made it illegal for Ontarians to offer scientific facts about pregnancy to women scheduled for abortions, and to provide options to women which do not include killing children before birth.”
Debbie Duval of Campaign Life Coalition Ottawa said at the demonstration that pro-life witnessing helps, not harasses, women. “We have documented cases of Canadian women who have changed their minds about having an abortion after speaking to pro-lifers and taking their literature during peaceful demonstrations,” she told the rally. “This is proof that the pro-life information is desired and appreciated by many women entering these facilities. They need to know there are other options,” Duval added.
The bubble zone is demarcated by street signs that announce “access zone boundary.” CLC tweeted: “Abortion bubblezone street signs are now up in Ottawa. Now everyone will know that children before birth are killed within this zone.”
Ottawa city councilor Catherine McKenney said on Twitter that because of the bubble zone, “women can now safely access healthcare services without fear of harassment, intimidation or interference.” The Ontario government claimed abortion-minded women and abortuary staff were routinely harassed and intimidated.
LifeSiteNews reported that “Ottawa police reports obtained by pro-life blogger Patricia Maloney show no reported injuries and no charges laid from 2010 to 2017 as a result of police attendance at the Morgentaler abortion facility.” Furthermore, “police attendance at the Bank Street abortion center dropped 33.6 percent in the period between 2014 to 2017 from the period between 2010 and 2013, Maloney reported in her blog Run With Life.”