- McGowan Government reaffirms commitment to safe access to abortion services
- Amendments to Public Health Act drafted after public consultation found overwhelming support for safe access zones
The McGowan Government has fulfilled a commitment to reintroduce legislation that will ensure women seeking an abortion can have safe and private access to health services without fear of harassment or intimidation.
The reintroduction of the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2021 to Parliament today was required as it was unable to be debated and passed by the Upper House before the March election.
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, seven days a week.
A report by the Department of Health completed in 2020 found there was overwhelming support (70 per cent) for safe access zones from the 4,184 community and industry responses.
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;
- 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.
Comments attributed to Health Minister Roger Cook:
"This Government is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring women undergoing abortions and their support persons are treated with compassion, respect and privacy at such a vulnerable time.
"They deserve to access health services without fear of judgement or harassment, and staff who provide care at the health services also need protecting.
"This legislation will bring Western Australia into line with all other jurisdictions in Australia in having protective measures in place for those who are accessing abortion services."
Comments attributed to Women's Interests Minister Simone McGurk:
"Western Australian women have a right to access legal health services without fear of being exposed to intimidation or harassment.
"In moving demonstrators away from the immediate vicinity of clinics, safe access zones provide privacy and safety to staff and those accessing abortion and other services, protecting them from experiencing undue anxiety or distress as they enter and leave the premises.
"This reasonable measure is already successfully helping women in other jurisdictions with appropriate access to legal medical procedures, so it is well and truly 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