Ottawa Creates Protest-Free Buffer Zones Around Abortion Clinics

Imagine making a deeply personal decision, and then getting jeered at, harassed and shown images of bloody fetuses as you enter an abortion clinic.

This is the reality for many who choose to end their pregnancies — at least 1 in 4 U.S. women. (There are no statistics for other genders.) But not so in Ottawa.

Starting February, protestors in the Canadian capital must stay 50 meters away from clinics that provide abortions.

This gives people accessing reproductive health care appropriate space and privacy. More importantly, the move shows support for reproductive rights — something that doesn’t seem to exist in the United States.

In the U.S., the Supreme Court declared buffer zones in Massachusetts  unconstitutional, but in these limited cases, the right to safety should overshadow free speech.

Photojournalist — and former teen parent — Wendi Kent has documented anti-abortion rights demonstrators on the East Coast and Midwest as a part of her “Faces of the Fight” project.

“The truth is that these are often very aggressive and intimidating people and the tactics that they use are scary,” Kent tells WNYC. “They’re invasive, and they’re meant to shame women and really do nothing else.”

Even anti-abortion-rights advocate John Stackhouse Jr. supports buffer zones around abortion clinics. He says that people should be able to express their opposition to abortion, however, the space right outside a clinic is not the place to do it.

“But a woman exercising her legal right to an abortion should not have to run a gauntlet of screaming opponents characterizing her choice and the difficult procedure she is about to undergo in the most horrifying terms,” Stackhouse Jr. writes in the Religion News Service. “We protect free speech so that ideas can be articulated and considered fairly, and there isn’t a lot of sober deliberation going on amid the shouting of epithets outside a clinic.”

Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull/Flickr

83 comments

Emma Z
Emma Z6 days ago

Very good. Thanks.

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Mary B
Mary B9 days ago

To Emily Zak, the author of this article. Why on Earth would you say such a misinformed thing like the support for reproductive rights doesn't exist in the USA ? The PRO-CHOICE people are the majority. Do NOT judge the people of this country by the republican party, Trump or any other right wing group. Hillery Clinton WON THE POPULAR vote by nearly 3000,000.

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Dot A
Dot A12 days ago

A deeply personal choice, deciding to have a full term baby, or choosing to stop a pregnancy,... Stay out of other people's 'conscience' and respect one another's decision to birth a human being. This is not for others to dictate with their interpretation of 'best' thing to do. Women especially must learn to appreciate the complexities of our role as reproductive beings. Give women the power of embracing their new offspring, or allowing her the wisdom to say that giving birth is not the best choice for her, the baby, and perhaps several underfed siblings. Protect women's choice. Women should not be forced to deliver a baby she will not have as her own, so giving up a baby is not a simple, easy solution. Respect women. Honor the woman's choice. Do not judge women harshly during this most delicate of life circumstances. Offer your loving support. Women need that far more than the hostile energies so often observed when she is in the most vulnerable times of her life.

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Elaine W
Elaine W12 days ago

Good.

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Leo C
Leo C12 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Winn A
Winn A12 days ago

Agree with Janis K

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Winn A
Winn A12 days ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn A12 days ago

Good

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Janis K
Janis K12 days ago

Agree with Pam, if you don't believe in abortion fine, but you DON'T have the right to tell other women what not to do. It is still legal here and we have that right. The only religion I believe in is kindness and it it not kind to harass women in a difficult situation, and your views are most likely unwelcome.

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Past Member
Past Member 13 days ago

good

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