Abortion safe areas protect staff & service users from bullying & harassment

Public Service Association members today spoke to the Health Select Committee in support of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill.

The union strongly endorses the proposal to set ‘safe areas’ around abortion service providers. However, the process currently proposed for designating these areas is overly cumbersome and should be simplified.

A written PSA submission was also provided, which argues people providing, assisting, or accessing abortion services should not be subject to intimidation, harassment or behaviour intended to cause distress.

“Our union movement strongly believes everyone should be safe at work, and that New Zealand’s public, community and health services should be accessible to everyone who needs them. If people providing or accessing abortion services must run the gauntlet to enter or leave a clinic, that’s unacceptable,” says PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.

“We also strongly support freedom of speech and the right to protest. Union members, including health workers, organise protest actions themselves when the situation calls for it. There’s a big difference between legitimate protest, however, and the organised intimidation of vulnerable people trying to access or provide a legal health service.”

The PSA represents 21,000 workers in New Zealand’s DHBs and 9,000 workers in the health-related Community Public Services sector.

The union consulted these workers when preparing its submission. Some union members also shared their stories of what it was like accessing abortion services.

For many, an already painful experience was made significantly worse by harassment from aggressive anti-abortion demonstrators.

“When the legislation is passed, it should enable safe areas to be established easily at all facilities which provide abortion services,” says Ms Davies.

“These safe areas should include arrangements for health workers and those using the service to use alternate entrances and exits, minimising the risk of intimidation and harassment.”

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