Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act

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Bill 9, the Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act (the Act), was given Royal Assent and came into force in Alberta on July 11, 2018. [1] It mandates no-protest zones around abortion clinics. [2]

The Act aims to strike a balance to free speech and the right to safe and confidential access to health services. [3]

The new rules establish “access zones” of 50 metres for the clinics and ban protesting, interfering with or intimidating a patient, physician or service provider within an access zone, among others. [4] The rules also outline behaviours that are prohibited such as harassing a physician’s neighbours or friends. [5] Police have the power to arrest suspected violators at the scene and penalties for individuals run as high as a $10,000 fine or a year in jail or both. [6]

“Women’s rights are human rights,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman [7]

Minister Hoffman stated that intimidation of patients at abortion clinics in Alberta was on the rise. “That is something no one should have to tolerate,” she said. [8] 

“This is not about freedom of speech,” said Hoffman. “This is about deliberate targeting by intimidation, shame, harassment and bullying of women who are often vulnerable. [9]

There are only two clinics, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary, that handle about 75 per cent of abortions in Alberta. [10]

Hoffman said the number of protesters outside the Calgary Kensington clinic has doubled in the last year and there are demonstrators outside the Women’s Health Options centre in Edmonton four or five times a week. [11] Both clinics have court orders keeping protesters at a distance. [12]

Women were granted the constitutional right to access abortion services in 1988, but many women still face barriers when it comes to their right to choose. [13]

UCP Leader Jason Kenney is against abortion and said his caucus would not debate or vote on the bill, calling it nothing more than divisive political gamesmanship by Premier Rachel Notley’s government. [14] His caucus walked out of the house a total of 14 times when the bill came up last year in April and May, and only one member, Angela Pitt, spoke to it in debate. [15] 

Politicians on all sides criticized the UCP for failing to engage. [16]

“I find it offensive that the UCP opposition has chosen to boycott any debate on this piece of legislation and has opted instead to abandon the legislative duty that they were elected to do and not vote time, and time, and time, and time again. Truly shameful,” said Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda. [17]

 

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.

[1] http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspxp=bills_status&selectbill=009&legl=29&session=4

[2] https://globalnews.ca/news/4243679/alberta-passes-bill-9-abortion-clinic-no-protest-zones/

[3] https://www.alberta.ca/protecting-choice-for-women.aspx

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] supra note 2

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] ibid 

[10] ibid 

[11] ibid 

[12] ibid 

[13] https://globalnews.ca/news/2671593/she-was-so-terrified-alberta-woman-highlights-need-for-abortion-services-in-lethbridge/

[14] supra note 2

[15] ibid 

[16] ibid 

[17] ibid