Ontario Protecting Women’s Right to Choose
Starting today, all abortion clinics in Ontario will have safe access zones of 50 metres to protect the safety, security, health and privacy of women and health care providers.
These changes are the result of legislation passed in 2017 to ensure women across the province can access abortion services without fear of intimidation, harassment or interference.
Prohibited activities within safe access zones around clinics, facilities and offices include:
- Advising a person to refrain from accessing abortion services
- Abortion-related protests
- Physically interfering with or intimidating people accessing or providing abortion services
- Recording patients or providers (e.g. taking photos or video).
Other facilities that offer abortion services, such as hospitals, health centres, or pharmacies, as well as the offices of regulated health professionals who provide abortion services can now request safe access zones of up to 150 metres.
In addition, abortion service providers now have automatic safe access zones of 150 metres around their homes. This includes a general anti-harassment provision that protects clinic staff and abortion providers anywhere in Ontario.
Protecting women’s right to choose is part of Ontario’s plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.
- The Safe Access to Abortion Services Act, 2017 creates safe access zones. Safe access zones include the property on which the clinic, facility, office, or home is located, and start at the outer boundaries of that property.
- The new law also prohibits harassment of clinic staff and regulated health professionals who provide abortion services anywhere in Ontario.
- In the lead up to this change coming into effect, the province worked proactively with law enforcement to ensure all police services have the information necessary to enforce this new law. Local Crown attorneys will also be available to support police going forward.
- People who engage in any of the prohibited activities within safe access zones could face fines of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months upon their first offence. For second and subsequent offences, fines could range between $1,000 and $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.
“No one should ever be intimidated or have to fear for their safety while accessing abortion services. These changes will have a far-reaching impact on patients, providers and communities across the province, helping to ensure these spaces are safer and more secure for everyone.”
— Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General
“Women in our province should be able to access health care free from the threat or fear of violence or harassment. Safe access zones will protect a woman’s fundamental right to fair and equal access to safe abortion. It’s an important step forward for women in Ontario.”
— Harinder Malhi, Minister of the Status of Women, Ontario