In December, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Navqi’s office notified Campaign Life Coalition and other pro-life groups that the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017, would come into effect on Feb. 1. The law, passed in October, establishes a minimum bubble zone prohibiting pro-life speech and assembly within 50 meters of the property of eight existing free-standing abortion facilities and 150 meters within the homes of a “protected service provider” which includes physicians, nurses, technicians, and pharmacists.
The perimeter can be made larger and other locations that provide abortion services, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies, can petition the Ministry of Justice to obtain a bubble zone outlawing pro-life speech and assembly outside their facilities.
The letter from Navqi states that “the purpose of this legislation is to protect access to abortion services by providing protecting the safety, security, health, and privacy of those accessing and providing abortion services.”
Prohibited activities, according to the law, include “advising a person to refrain from accessing abortion services,” any “abortion-related protests,” “physically interfering with or intimidating persons accessing or providing abortion services,” and “recording patients or providers” with a camera or video recorder. The law protects abortion facility staff from any “harassing conduct anywhere in Ontario” inside or out the bubble zone.
40 Days for Life vigils are effectively moved away from their intended audience and initial reports suggest fewer vigils will be organized in Ontario because of the bubble zone law.
Pro-life activists in Ottawa are considering a pro-free speech demonstration outside the bubble zones to raise awareness of the “totalitarian” nature of the law.
A volunteer at Aid to Women in Toronto, which abuts the Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic, said the crisis pregnancy center will no longer provide sidewalk counseling and they will have to develop new strategies to get the pro-life message to women considering abortion.