Under legislative changes being introduced into Parliament today, Western Australian women seeking an abortion will be reassured of safe and private access to health services without fear of harassment or intimidation.
The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2020 follows the publication of a report by the Department of Health in February 2020.
The report presented the recommendations following community consultation on safe access zones which received an extraordinary level of community and industry engagement and found 70 per cent of respondents in favour of the measure.
The Bill provides for a safe access zone which will include the protected premises, and any area within 150 metres of the boundary.
The zone will apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Within those zones, prohibited behaviours will include:
- harassing, intimidating and threatening a person accessing premises at which abortions are provided;
- 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;
- impeding a footpath, road or vehicle without reasonable excuse, in relation to abortion; and
- recording by any means, without reasonable excuse, another person accessing premises at which abortions are provided, without that other person’s consent.
The Bill also prohibits a person from publishing and distributing recordings of another person accessing premises at which abortions are provided, if the recording could identify that person, without their consent or reasonable excuse.
Engaging in a prohibited behaviour in a safe access zone would attract a maximum penalty of $12,000 and 12 months’ imprisonment.
As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“This legislation will bring Western Australia into line with most other jurisdictions in Australia in having protective measures in place for those who are accessing abortion services.
“Women undergoing abortions and their support persons deserve compassion, respect and privacy at an emotionally challenging time, free of harassment or judgement. Staff who work at these health services should also be protected.
“Public consultation on safe access zones attracted 4,184 responses, including responses from 40 public and private organisations, and confirmed that the majority fully support these measures.”
As stated by Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk:
“Western Australian women have a right to access legal medical services without fear of intimidation.
“Safe access zones are already helping women in other jurisdictions – they provide privacy and safety to those who should not be subjected to harassment when accessing vital medical services.
“On this issue, it’s time to bring WA into line with the rest of the country.”
Health Minister’s office – 6552 6500
Women’s Interests Minister’s office – 6552 6600