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Provinces and cities to make it illegal to protest outside abortion providers

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Pro-choice demonstrators. Image: Kate Ausburn/flickr

Soon it will be illegal to protest outside or even near abortion clinics in the province of Ontario.

Last week, the Ontario legislature passed a bill to fast-track the creation of protest-zones around the eight medical clinics that exist. These would be of between 50 and 150 metres depending on the structure.

Banning anti-abortion protests was not the only behaviour to be barred, demonstrators also are prohibited from advising a person not to get an abortion, and intimidation or interfering with a woman's ability to physically access the eight clinics will also be banned.

The ban will also automatically apply to 150 metres around the homes of abortion staff and health professionals who provide these services.

The bill passed unanimously despite Conservatives' allegations that the Liberals wanted to drag along the passing of the bill so internal weaknesses -- several known Christian conservatives were absent the day of the vote -- could appear.

One lone individual did vote against the bill, independent parliamentarian Jack MacLaren. MacLaren once was a Conservative but since joined the Trillium Party, which the legislature does not recognize as an official party yet.

At the same time, Toronto politicians are pushing for a ban on publicly displaying graphic anti-abortion signs.

Members of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform use such large signs to demonstrate against abortions on College Street during the summer months. West end city councillor, Sarah Doucette, raised the concern she feels from residents, and has received hundreds of complaints.

Doucette plans to propose a city bylaw to ban the anti-abortion signs, which I must add are extremely graphic in full colour.

Sometimes, anti-abortion demonstrations would set themselves up on all sides of the street at the University and College intersection, rocking the signs back in forth to the beat of their hymns.

Along with the large signs, the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform also hands out fliers. And the fliers end up in people’s mailboxes.

So including Doucette seeking an injunction to the signs from city council, two Toronto city councillors (Paula Fletcher and Mary Fragedakis) and Toronto District School Board trustee (Jennifer Story), are seeking an injunction from Ontario’s Attorney General against the distribution of mailbox flyers, as well as the signs.

In another city, changes to Calgary bylaws regarding flyer delivery could affect the ability for the same Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform to distribute their literature. Penalties would range from $50 to $300 per violation. 

Image: Kate Ausburn/flickr

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