Safe Access Zones passes WA Parliament

Landmark legislation has now passed through WA Parliament, ensuring that women seeking an abortion can have safe and private access to health services without fear of harassment or intimidation.

The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill will provide for a safe access zone which will include the protected premises and any area within 150 metres of the boundary. It will apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Prohibited behaviours within the zones includes:

  • 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 new law will also prohibit 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 could attract a maximum penalty of $12,000 and 12 months’ imprisonment.

“One of the important legacies of the McGowan Government is ensuring that patients should be able to access healthcare with privacy, dignity and respect.

“For far too long women had to run the gauntlet of people outside abortion clinics.

“It is already a difficult and intensely personal decision without having to encounter a protest before undergoing a legal medical procedure.

“It takes courage to pass laws such as this.

“I would like to thank everyone involved in helping this law pass through both houses of Parliament.” Minister for Health Roger Cook.

“The overall impact that the behaviour of demonstrators outside abortion services has on vulnerable patients, those accompanying patients and clinic staff cannot be ignored.

“The passing of this legislation is a significant moment for women in this State, as it brings Western Australia into line with the rest of the country.

“Western Australian women have a right to access legal medical services without fear of intimidation or harassment, and the appropriate safeguards will now be in place around clinics.

“Safe access zones are vital to protect the safety and privacy of women accessing legal health services, and I thank the WA Parliament, health workers and broader community for their advocacy and support for these important laws.” said Minister for Women’s Interests Simone McGurk.