Safe access zones for WA abortion clinics enshrined in law

By Melissa Coade

August 13, 2021

WA parliament house-western australia
Older Western Australians are invited to inform the state’s Seniors Strategy 2022-2032. (Rafael Ben-Ari/Adobe)

The Western Australian parliament has passed landmark legislation to ensure women can access safe and private health services without fear of harassment or intimidation from protesters.

The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill provides a 24/7 protected zone around premises offering abortion services and any area within 150 metres of that boundary.

The law reform brings the state into line with rules about protesting outside abortion clinics with other Australian jurisdictions. 

Women’s interests minister Simone McGurk said that the interfering and harassing behaviour of protestors at abortion clinics could not continue to go ignored. 

“Western Australian women have a right to access legal medical services without fear of intimidation or harassment, and the appropriate safeguards will now be in place around clinics,” McGurk said. 

“Safe access zones are vital to protect the safety and privacy of women accessing legal health services, and I thank the WA Parliament, health workers and broader community for their advocacy and support for these important laws.”

The law reforms mean that fines of up to $12,000 can be issued to protestors who enter a safe access zone, or 12 months imprisonment.

Prohibited behaviours within the safe access zone include impeding a footpath, road or vehicle without reasonable excuse; harassing, intimidating and threatening a person accessing the premises; and communicating by any means in relation to abortion in a manner that can be seen or heard by a person accessing the premises and is reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety.

The new law also bans people from recording, and publishing or distributing recordings of any person accessing clinics without their consent. 

“One of the important legacies of the McGowan government is ensuring that patients should be able to access healthcare with privacy, dignity and respect,” health minister Roger Cook said, also thanking both houses of parliament for their support of the bill. 

“It is already a difficult and intensely personal decision without having to encounter a protest before undergoing a legal medical procedure.

“It takes courage to pass laws such as this,” he added.


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WA parliament considers laws to enshrine safe access to abortion

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