ACT News

Canberra's anti-abortion protestors risk fines as buffer zones come into effect

Pro-life supporters have been banned from protesting within 50 metres of Canberra's abortion clinic under new ACT laws that come into effect on Tuesday. 

The legislation has created a buffer zone around Civic's Dr Marie clinic on Moore Street that makes it illegal for protesters to harass, intimidate or film women accessing the centre between 7am and 6pm on weekdays. 

The protest-free zone covers parts of Moore Street and Alinga Street around the ACT Health building, as well as sections of the surrounding city blocks.

Protesters who breach the exclusion zone risk hefty fines. 

Legislation forming the protest-free area was passed in the Legislative Assembly last October and ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell​ said it was the first of its kind for the territory.

"This new protest-free zone is about ensuring that women, who have made what is already a difficult decision to have an abortion, can access the medical services they require without being forced to endure the judgment of others," Mr Corbell said.

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"People requiring legal medical treatment, no matter what it is, should be able to get that treatment in privacy and safety."

Mr Corbell said the protest-free zones had been created in consultation with the ACT Human Rights Commission and ACT Policing to ensure a woman's right to access safe and legal healthcare was balanced with the rights of protesters. 

The introduction of the exclusion zones is expected to put a stop to a regular gathering of protesters who have displayed signs and prayed together outside the clinic for more than 17 years.  

Pro-life supporters, who opposed the exclusion zones, have continued to hold prayer vigils outside the clinic in the weeks before the ban was finalised. 

The protesters ramped up their gatherings as part of the global 40 Days for Life movement, which advocates for the eradication of abortion, in the lead-up to Easter.

ACT Right to Life president Bev Cains last week said protesters might consider moving their prayer vigils to churches once the exclusion zones were in place.

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