New Bill Would Protect Women, Health Providers

Women should feel safe when choosing any health service in Alberta, including abortion.

Minister Hoffman is joined by the co-sponsor of the legislation, MLA Deborah Drever, and staff from the Women’s Health Options clinic. 

The Protecting Choice for Women Accessing Health Care Act would safeguard women who choose to access abortion services, as well as abortion clinic staff, from protests, interference, bullying and intimidation.

“It’s not okay that Alberta women still face aggression, bullying and harassment for making choices about their health care. We need to protect women, their families, and health-care professionals from threats and intimidation around abortion services.”

~Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

The legislation would establish 50-metre “access zones” at Alberta’s two non-hospital abortion clinics – Kensington Clinic in Calgary and Woman’s Health Options in Edmonton – to prevent intimidation, interference or protesting against patients, doctors and clinic staff. Visual or audio recordings of patients, doctors or staff within an access zone would also be prohibited.

The legislation would allow doctors and service providers to request a regulated access zone of up to 160 metres for their homes or 20 metres for an office. It would also be illegal to use repeated phone, mail or electronic communications to try to convince a doctor or service provider to not provide abortion services.

“Women who come to our clinic have had to make a difficult decision in choosing abortion.  They should not have to be faced with intimidation, harassment, fear and interference when entering and accessing a health care facility.”

~Kim Cholewa, executive director, Woman’s Health Options

“There is ample evidence that anti-choice harassment and intimidation is a serious problem throughout the country and that access zone legislation works to protect patients, practitioners and their staff. Alberta is responding to an urgent call by making a strong statement that intimidation and harassment are unacceptable.”

~Sandeep Prasad, executive director, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

“Unwanted pregnancy is one of the many negative consequences that sexual assault survivors must face. No woman in Alberta, especially a woman who is pregnant as a result of sexual assault, should have to endure harassment and intimidation while accessing abortion services. Access zones would allow women to receive these services safely, without fear of being shamed and re-traumatized.”

~Deb Tomlinson, CEO, Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services

The legislation would create escalating fines for repeated violations of the act, up to $10,000 for an individual or $100,000 for a corporation.

Quick facts

  • Laws protecting access to abortion services have been in place in British Columbia since 1996.
  • More recently, the governments of Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador have also passed similar legislation.
  • More than 75 per cent of abortions in Alberta are provided at the Kensington Clinic and Woman’s Health Options.
  • These clinics have previously relied on court injunctions to limit the number, proximity and activities of protesters.
    • Both clinics report significant increases in protester activity despite the injunctions.
  • Number of surgical abortions performed in Alberta since 2010:
    • 2010 -14,916
    • 2011 -14,985
    • 2012 -14,603
    • 2013 -14,736
    • 2014 -14,865
    • 2015 -14,804
    • 2016 -14,268