Western Australia’s parliament has passed a law ensuring safe and private access to abortion services.
A bill aimed at ensuring safe and private abortion access has finally passed through one state legislature, with proponents hailing it as a’momentous’ day.
Women in Western Australia will soon be allowed to obtain abortion health services safely and privately, following the passage of landmark legislation by the state legislature.
Advocates expressed satisfaction and hailed the legislation’s passage as “historic” and “momentous” for the country, with WA having the final authority to approve such laws.
The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill establishes 24-hour safe zones, which will include any site within 150 metres of a boundary.
Within the zones, the following behaviors are prohibited: • Harassing, intimidating, or threatening a person accessing abortion premises; • Communicating about abortion via any means in a manner that could be heard or seen by a person accessing a service that could cause them distress or anxiety; • Impeding a footpath, road, or vehicle without a reasonable excuse; and • Recording another person accessing the premise.
The maximum punishment is $12,000 and 12 months in prison for violators.
“One of the McGowan government’s significant legacies is ensuring that people may receive healthcare with the privacy, dignity, and respect they deserve,” Health Minister Roger Cook said.
“For far too long, women were forced to navigate the crowds outside abortion facilities.
It is already a tough and very personal decision to undergo a legitimate medical procedure without having to face opposition.
Minister for Women’s Interests Simone McGurk described the legislation’s passage as a “watershed moment for women in this state.”
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“It reintroduces Western Australia to the rest of the country,” she explained.
“Women have the right to legitimate medical care without fear of intimidation or harassment, and proper measures will now be in place surrounding clinics.”
Interest organizations have also lauded the legislation, which has been a long time coming following its failure to clear the upper house prior to last year’s state election.
Adrianne Walters, associate legal director at the Human Rights Law Centre, described the day as historic.
“It is now illegal throughout the country to intimidate and harass people seeking abortion care outside of health clinics,” she stated.
“As we have seen in other regions of Australia, safe access zones are vital for fostering equity and every person’s right to healthcare access in a safe environment.
Nobody should have to endure a barrage of abuse in order to see a doctor. These legislation will ensure that no one is harassed or videotaped while walking to their doctor’s office for necessary reproductive healthcare.”
Additionally, Ms Walters urged the state government to take the “next step.”
“Reform and decriminalize the state’s archaic and harmful abortion laws,” she stated.
“Access to a safe, legal abortion is a fundamental right to healthcare. In Western Australia, the McGowan government must eliminate all impediments to timely reproductive healthcare.”
Picketers spend more than 2000 hours a year outside Marie Stopes Australia’s Midland clinic, according to the health provider.
Leigh Keane, manager of the nurse unit, expressed relief at the law’s passage.
“Patients can now enter the clinic without fear of being judged or intimidated,” she explained.
“It provides individuals with unambiguous access to the healthcare they have determined they want or need, based on their circumstances, and they are no longer swayed on the day, minutes before they go through, by outside persons.
“It also ensures the safety of our employees and even our neighbors, who are forced to watch the behavior on a weekly basis. Our entire neighborhood was impacted.”
Jamal Hakim, managing director of Marie Stopes Australia, described the day as a “momentous day for human rights” in the country.
“Unfortunately, there is a great deal of underlying stigma associated with abortion rights and access, and this is an important step toward addressing the grief experienced by women and workers when visiting a clinic,” he said.
“We are grateful that the Western Australian government has adhered to its commitment to create safe access zones and that picketers will be prohibited from harassing staff.”
Additionally, Mr Hakim urged the state government to expand access to abortion services.
“At the moment, the penal law controls abortion, and there are considerable antiquated barriers to abortion treatment that must be addressed,” he stated.