Sidewalk counseling and all forms of peaceful protest outside of abortion facilities is now illegal in Western Australia. The Public Health Amendment Bill 2021 passed the Labor-dominated Legislative Council on August 11, 2021. Western Australia is the last state in that nation to pass such an ordinance. Every state and territory in Australia has now enacted similar legislation.
The bill, also known as the “Safe Access Zones” bill, outlaws “prohibited behaviour within a safe access zone,” which is defined as the area “within the boundary of premises at which abortions are provided” and “within 150 m[eters] outside the boundary.”
“Prohibited behaviour” is broadly defined; according to the text of the bill, “[A] person engages in prohibited behaviour if the person besets, harasses, intimidates, interferes with, threatens, hinders, obstructs or impedes a person accessing, attempting to access or leaving premises at which abortions are provided.”
“Prohibited behaviour” is also defined as “communicat[ing] by any means in relation to abortion in a manner that is [both] able to be seen or heard by a person accessing, attempting to access or leaving premises at which abortions are provided and reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety.”
“[I]nterfer[ing] with or imped[ing] a footpath, road or vehicle in relation to abortion … mak[ing] a recording by any means of another person accessing, attempting to access or leaving premises at which abortions are provided, without the other person’s consent,” are also included in the definition of “prohibited behaviour.”
Essentially, all forms of pro-life witness outside of abortion facilities in Western Australia are now punishable by imprisonment for one year and a fine of $12,000. The ordinance applies 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
But Australian abortion enthusiasts remain unsatisfied.
Jamal Hakim, managing director for Marie Stopes Australia, said the passage of this bill was a significant step, but that more needs to be done to ‘reduce stigma’ around ‘abortion access.’ “Next, we want to work with the government to increase access to abortion care in Western Australia. Currently, the criminal code still regulates abortion and there are significant outdated hurdles in accessing abortion care which still need to be addressed,” Hakim said.
Only three Upper House Members of Parliament opposed the bill after its second reading — Liberal Party members Nick Goiran and Neil Thomson and James Hayward of the National Party. “My concern is for a number of volunteers who are outside of the clinics and what they look to do is to provide compassionate, peaceful support to any woman who is having an unexpected pregnancy who wants support,” Goiran said. “[T]hose people who are there out of genuine concern and compassion, they should be supported too.”
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