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Following this month's historic vote to implement safe access zones in NSW, advocates for women’s rights are calling for Queensland to follow suit.
NSW Parliament voted 61 to 18 in favour of amending the Public Health Act to introduce 150-metre exclusion zones around clinics, and make it illegal to harass patients or staff.
The vote means that NSW has joined the ranks of four other Australian states or territories to have implemented safe access zones, and advocates now have Queensland in their sights.
“The impact of the safety zone cannot be overemphasised”
The Human Rights Law Centre submitted a proposal earlier this year to change the termination of pregnancy laws to the Queensland Law Reform Commission, which is set to be reviewed at the end of this month.
Labor Senator for Queensland Claire Moore said it was time to bring Queensland’s abortion laws into the 21st century.
"The impact of the safety zones cannot be overemphasised… [Protestors] are not peaceful and quiet, they are confronting and intimidating, and they make a difficult decision even more difficult.”
NSW Minister for Family and Community Services and former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Pru Goward, voted against the bill, describing it as “a very powerful weapon of censorship”.
Supporters of safe zones took to Twitter to criticise her and other politicians who voted against the NSW legislation.
pru goward voting against #safeaccess zones on the basis of free speech is a thoroughly disingenuous and rubbish argument. if she had to run a gauntlet of protestors to get into parliament you can bet your bottom dollar she’d have her chauffeur speed into the basement. #nswpol— Sabina Husic (@sabinahusic) June 7, 2018
However, pro-life groups claim the laws are a form of censorship.
“This extreme legislation is aimed at shutting down freedom of speech and protecting abortion businesses rather than protecting women,” according to Ms Teeshan Johnson, campaign director of Cherish Life Queensland.
“It’s an absolute lie that exclusion zones promote women’s safety.”
Jacquie O’Brien, Director of Public Affairs for Marie Stopes, disagrees.
“The safe access zones are not an attack on free speech at all. In fact, they do nothing to stop people saying whatever they like about abortion. What they do stop people from saying or doing is hurting, intimidating, harassing women within a 150-metre area, who are trying to access a very common medical procedure,” she said.
“We are seeing an escalation of protestors in our Western Australia and Queensland clinics. It’s time for those governments to act, and act in the interests of women.”
Natalie Charlton, a Pro Choice Queensland committee member, is currently an escort for women who are looking to get abortions in Queensland.
“Patients are often confused and disturbed by the actions [of anti-choicers] outside of clinics, and some are reluctant to even try walking past the anti (choicers). It is clear that the behaviour displayed creates an environment that feels uncomfortable and unsafe,” Ms Charlton said.