Manitoba’s Bill 8 seeks to introduce “safe access zones” around abortion providers

09/03/2024 / Bubble Zones 

Manitoba’s Minister of Families has introduced a bill to ban pro-life outreach and demonstrations near abortion providers. Bill 8, the “Safe Access to Abortion Services Act” was tabled in the Manitoba legislature on March 7. While so far efforts to introduce bubble zones in Manitoba have failed, this is a government bill and so is likely to pass into law.

When introducing the bill in the Manitoba legislature, Minister Nahanni Fontaine declared that “Abortion is health care, it’s a human right. And while some citizens may not agree with abortion, don’t have one.”

Abortion is certainly not health care, and is not a right in Canada. Despite this, bubble zone laws have successfully passed in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. Manitoba wants to follow suit, despite presenting no evidence that abortion providers or women seeking abortions have faced any issues of harassment or blocked access.

If passed, the bill would make it an offense to do any of the following within an “access zone” near where surgical abortions or abortifacient drugs are provided:

(a) attempt to advise or persuade a person to refrain from accessing abortion services

(b) attempt to inform a person concerning issues related to abortion

(c) attempt to perform an act of disapproval concerning issues related to abortion

(d) persistently request that a person refrain from accessing … or providing or assisting in the provision of abortion services, or

(e) continuously or repeatedly observe a facility for the purpose of preventing provision or access.

An access zone generally covers an area of 50 metres around the perimeter of a facility, and it can be expanded by regulation to cover “any other prescribed area.”

Manitoba’s Bill 8 has provisions that forbid harassing an abortion provider in any place or by electronic means. But Canada’s Criminal Code already prohibits harassment, intimidation, assault (including making threats), mischief (including interfering with lawful use of property), nuisance, and causing a public disturbance, making these provisions redundant.

Bill 8 targets peaceful efforts to inform, persuade, or express disapproval of abortion, things which are not prohibited by criminal law. This has no benefit for women. It leads women alone with only one perspective, a perspective that tells them their child is worth nothing  or that they are not capable of being a mother to that child. It is the pro-life view that is both pro-woman and pro-child, but that is the voice governments continually try to silence for women in crisis.

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