On June 8 this year, a New South Wales abortion clinic ‘safe zone’ bill passed the Lower House, meaning protesters who intimidate or harass people within 150 metres of hospitals or clinics that provide terminations, can now face punishment including fines and jail time.

This abortion exclusion zone, which is officially referred to as The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018, now brings NSW in line with Tasmania, Victoria, ACT and Australian Capital Territory.

How Did The Abortion Clinic Safe Access Bill Come About?

The bill was introduced by Upper House Labor MP Penny Sharpe and was co-sponsored by Nationals MP Trevor Khan.

In the lead-up to the bill getting passed, the abortion clinic safe access topic sparked debate with some MPs publicly voicing opinions both for and against based on a variety of beliefs.

On the morning of June 8, after the bill was passed, Penny Sharpe told Australian media it was a “terrific day for women in New South Wales”.

However some of her counterparts disagreed.

Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward claimed she voted against the bill. She said her vote was in line with the right to free speech, and that she is a “strong and visceral believer” when it comes to the freedom of speech. She further added, “I would so much like to support this bill, I know what it will mean to the women affected, but I cannot.”

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce was also clear on his intentions to vote against the bill, stating that he was “allowed, entitled and obligated” to lobby his party to oppose the bill.

“People know I’ve got a pro-life position. I am surrounded by people who don’t and I respect their views and the respect mine,” he told the media. 

“And of course, all of us have a duty to express our views in a debate and members of parliament are there to have your views expressed and that is precisely what, not only am I allowed to do, I am entitled to do and, I think, in some instances, you are obligated to.”

What Does The Abortion Exclusion Zone Mean?

The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018, introduces legislation prohibiting any communication “in relation to abortions” that are deemed “reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety” to people who are entering abortion clinics or hospitals. This exclusion zone is within 150 meters from the perimeter of the building.

What Are The Fines

NSW Abortion Exclusion Zone Bill Passed: Colloquially referred to as the ‘safe zone’ bill, this legislation means people who are protesting or are deemed to be causing distress or anxiety to people within 150 meters of abortion clinic or hospital will be subject to fines including $5500 or six months’ prison. A second offence could incur a fine of $11,000 or 12 months’ prison.

The bill passed the Lower House in the early hours of the morning on June 8 at 61 votes to 18. Two weeks prior to that it passed through the Upper House with 25 voting in favour, 13 against and four abstaining.

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