Abortionists Everywhere are Desperate for Bubble Zones
Not content with killing babies, traumatising parents and harvesting body parts, abortion providers are always looking at new strategies to inhibit the work of the pro-life community or to bolster their income. For of course, every baby saved from abortion means a slimmer pay-packet for the abortionist and his staff.
In Australia, that could mean a loss of around $600 for a first-trimester abortion and up to $7700 for a late-term abortion. So it’s little wonder that abortionists are eager to have special laws created in order to get women to keep those appointments. One example is the profusion of bubble-zone laws that have sprung up in recent years.
In a western liberal democracy, we should be very concerned when the government enacts laws that target one specific group of people. Laws should be created solely to target behaviour, not groups or organisations. But exclusion-zone laws in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia do just that.
Bubble-Zones in Massachusetts and Canada
Exclusion-zones were enacted in Massachusetts in 2007 and struck down in 2014 after a legal challenge. The law had made it illegal for pro-lifers to stand within 35 ft/10 metres of an abortion facility to witness for life. Pro-lifers claimed that the law hampered their ability to reach out and offer help to women who were entering an abortion facility, and the US Supreme Court found that the law was unconstitutional.
In his article about the case, Professor Michael Quinlan concluded:
… Justice Alito found that the effect of the law was to silence the Councillors and other critics of the relevant abortion clinic while the clinic remained able to authorise its employee and agents to speak in favour of the clinic and its work. He described this as “blatant view point discrimination.”
Professor Quinlan also quoted the late Justice Antony Scalia:
“Protecting people from speech that they do not want to hear is not a function that the First Amendment allows the government to undertake in the public streets and sidewalks.”
In Ontario, Canada, exclusion zones were enacted on February 1st, 2018. The law requires that no pro-life witness take place within 50 metres of an abortion facility, while hospitals and other providers can apply for a zone of up to 150 metres. Rhetoric of harassment and intimidation was used to draw support for the new law, although, as in other countries, there was no evidence of such behaviour. A similar law already exists in British Columbia.
Exclusion Zones in Australia
To date, exclusion zones exist in two Australian states and two territories. The Victorian law, under which I was found guilty is very similar to the Tasmanian law: 150 metre/300 ft zone which applies even when the facility is closed. In Tasmanian law, three pro-lifers have been arrested; one multiple times. The ACT law is a little different: the zone is only 50 metres, and only applies during operating hours. Three arrests have been made under the ACT law for the ‘crime’ of praying silently. Bubble-zones were also recently introduced in the NT.
Australian academics have had plenty to say about the potential unconstitutionality of these “safe-access” zones, with even non-religious and non-prolife experts weighing in. Here are comments by two pro-life law professors:
Professor Michael Quinlan again, relating the Australian laws to the Massachusetts decision:
The approach taken by the US Supreme Court in this case [Massachusetts] is, however, of particular interest in Australia in light of the exclusion zone created by The Reproductive (Acceptance to Terminations) Act 2014 (Tasmania) and the proposed exclusion zones under consideration in other Australian states and Territories as it raises for consideration whether it is necessary and appropriate to interfere with freedom of speech around abortion clinics at all. If policy determines that State government interference with free speech is warranted near abortion clinics, this case raises the question of the appropriate breadth and scope of such interference.
… In general, our law places a strong value on the right of people to make public statements about their beliefs, where they are not directly attacking or threatening others. In addition, however, the law of Australia, and international law, protects religious freedom, and arguably not only the free speech rights of protestors, but also in many cases their religious freedom rights, are under threat from, or being impaired by, the “exclusion zone” laws.
Councils Criminalising Counsellors?
Most bubble-zone laws have been enacted at the state level, with varying degrees of success. But it’s becoming more common for abortionists to try to use local governments to enact these exclusion zones to protect their incomes. Local government laws like this exist in Canada – in Alberta and Ontario.
However, in the US, city councils in Maine, Vermont, and Wisconsin either repealed or stopped enforcing their exclusion zones after the Massachusetts bubble zones were deemed unconstitutional. Progressive news source, Huff Post even wrote an article entitled: Abortion Clinic Buffer-Zones Crumble Around the Country”.
But not all councils are giving up so easily. In the UK, the Ealing Council is considering enacting exclusion-zones to protect the income of a Marie Stopes facility located in west London. As with similar pushes in other jurisdictions, there is no evidence that the activity of pro-lifers outside the facility warrants such drastic action. In fact, animal rights protesters have been charged under the existing Protection from Harassment Act, but no such charge has ever been made against pro-lifers.
Director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, Neil Addison, said,
“Marie Stopes International had failed to prove that pro-life pavement counsellors were intimidating its clients. If harassment has been occurring at the clinic, then I question why Marie Stopes has made no attempt to apply for injunctions under the Protection from Harassment Act. I also question why police would not bring prosecutions under the Harassment Act or the Public Order Act if harassment is taking place.”
The Ealing Council has launched an eight-week consultation process in order to hear all sides of the debate before deciding whether or not to introduce a zone, which would be known as a Public Space Protection Order. The move is a significant one, as at least four other councils in the UK are considering similar zones and are waiting on the outcome of this case.
Albury Council Gets in on the Act
The country town of Albury, in New South Wales, has been the scene of a very nasty campaign against the local pro-life community for some years. A particularly grubby battle ended last year with a prominent ex-abortionist being forced to publicly apologise to a pro-life couple for the slanderous remarks he had made about them. Greens member, Mehreen Faruqi has been pushing for years for abortion to be decriminalised in the state, but so far, has been unsuccessful in her efforts.
Last year, the council got in on the act. The Deputy Mayor of Albury moved a motion to ban peaceful protest outside local abortion facility. Amanda Cohn intended using an existing law, entitled Section 632, to stop peaceful protest. One councillor criticised the idea, claiming that a law governing gold balls couldn’t be used to regulate an abortion facility. Another councillor labelled the move “totalitarian” and “reminiscent of something you’d see in North Korea”.
The council expects to have further legal advice about the proposal at the end of this month.
Why Do Abortionists Fear the Pro-Life Community?
So why are abortionists clamouring for these bubble-zones? It most certainly is not because of harassment, violence or intimidation – there is little or no evidence for such accusations.
Put simply, abortionists want these zones because sustained, peaceful, public witness by pro-lifers has a huge impact on them. This kind of witness has led to conversions of staff, closures of abortion facilities, changes of heart by passers-by and of course, to thousands of babies being saved from certain death.
How can we have laws against such good outcomes? How can we have laws that stop us drawing attention to the reality of abortion? How can we help women when we must stand 150 metres away from them?
Remember, St. Augustine said that an unjust law is no law at all, and Martin Luther King said that “an unjust law is a code that a numerical or power group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”
‘Not binding on itself.’ Abortionists can tell the most blatant lies to women, but pro-lifers are prevented from telling the truth. The media and popular culture fuel the abortion juggernaut and give it the power to create these unjust laws.
Well, our legal challenges to the bubble-zone laws will continue. All eyes will be on Australia to see whether the dubious rights of the culture of death can continue to trump those of the culture of life.