The McGowan Government supports the introduction of safe access zones, and work has commenced on a discussion paper that will explore the introduction of such zones in Western Australia.
Safe access zones are designed to address concerns regarding the safety and wellbeing of patients and staff entering premises to access legal health services, such as abortion and reproductive and fertility health services.
These zones currently exist in most other Australian States.
The zones introduce a buffer to move protesters away from the immediate vicinity of premises providing relevant health services, thereby preventing intimidation or harassment of patients and staff who are receiving or carrying out a legal medical procedure.
This discussion paper, being led by the Department of Health, will be released for public comment following the outcome of a High Court challenge on safe access zone laws in Victoria and Tasmania.
The High Court decision will need to be carefully considered before determining whether safe access zones can be implemented in WA, and in what particular form they may take.
As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“All patients in Western Australia have a right to safety, privacy and respect when accessing healthcare.
“I can only imagine the distress a patient will experience when they arrive at a clinic to undergo a legal medical procedure and are confronted with a group of protestors.
“I am in favour of safe access zones and look forward to Western Australians having their say on the discussion paper when it is released in the coming months.”
As stated by Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk:
“On International Women’s Day it is timely that we acknowledge the rights of women to access medical procedures in a safe manner and without undue distress.
“Safe access zones are a vital step in ensuring that women can maintain their safety and wellbeing during what is a difficult time.”