South Australian women accessing abortion services as well as health staff would be protected from abuse and harassment by anti-abortionists by 150-metre safe access zones if legislation introduced into the state’s Parliament yesterday is passed.
The Health Care (Safe Access) Amendment Bill was introduced yesterday by Labor MP Nat Cook, a former nurse.
The proposed law would create protective zones around abortion services, prohibiting harassment, intimidation, filming and other distressing conduct targeting patients and staff.
It would bring South Australia into line with all other Australian states and territories except Western Australia, would protect the safety and wellbeing of women when attending abortion clinics.
Adrianne Walters, Acting Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, welcomed the proposed law as a critical step to safeguarding South Australian women’s health and equality.
“For far too long, women in South Australian have had to navigate the abuse of strangers just to see their doctor,” she said.
The distress, fear and anxiety caused to patients and staff is unacceptable. Safe access zones around abortion clinics work to protect women’s safety and privacy from anti-abortion activists where other laws have failed.”
Ms Walters said safe access zone laws had been upheld by the High Court of Australia and enacted in every state and territory bar South Australia and Western Australia.
She said abortion still remains regulated in South Australia by criminal laws written 51 years ago, which she argues make it harder for women in regional and remote areas to access the care they need, particularly early medication abortion.
Queensland legalised abortion in 2018, and NSW followed suit last year.
“The values and technology of 1969 should not limit a women’s right to access the healthcare she needs in 2020. Safe access zones are an important step. It’s now time for the SA government to finally decriminalise abortion and respect the right of every woman to control their body.”