The McGowan Government has today released a discussion paper to introduce safe access zones around premises that provide abortion services in Western Australia.
The paper entitled ‘Safe access zones – Proposal for reform in Western Australia’ explores how an appropriate legislative framework might operate to ensure patients can access health services, including abortion clinics, without fear of intimidation or harassment.
Safe access zones are designed to address concerns regarding the safety and wellbeing of patients and staff that work at, or are seeking access to, legal health services including abortion services.
The public consultation is designed to seek feedback on how best to protect patients when accessing these services. It is not the purpose to review or debate the arguments for or against abortion in WA.
The start of the consultation period follows last week’s High Court decision confirming the constitutional validity of legislation establishing safe access zones in Victoria and Tasmania.
Safe access zones already exist in most other Australian States.
Feedback can be submitted via written and online submissions or by completing an online survey.
The discussion paper, the online survey and more information surrounding the consultation process can be found at http://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/safeaccesszones
The closing date for submissions is May 31, 2019.
As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“There have been ongoing instances of individuals being confronted by protestors when accessing abortion services in Western Australia. These protests cause anxiety and distress for patients, as well as staff, which is why the McGowan Government is working to introduce safe access zones.
“The McGowan Government believes all patients in Western Australia have a right to safety, privacy and respect when accessing health care. This reform will mean women in WA can attend abortion clinics for a legal medical procedure without having to endure protestors hurling abuse.
“This discussion paper is an opportunity for the community to provide input into the design of the legislation, so that we can determine how best these safe access zones can be introduced in WA.”
As stated by Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk:
“I want women to have access to good health care and this includes responsible family planning.
“There is a need for Government intervention to better regulate and manage protestors around abortion clinics to ensure women have access to legal medical procedures without intimidation or harassment.
“The introduction of safe access zones will maintain the rights of women to privacy and safety during what is likely a very difficult time.
“I encourage the Western Australian public to have their say on how they think these zones can best be implemented and how we can help ensure women accessing legal medical procedures can do so without further distress.”