The creation of a buffer zone around Victorian abortion clinics to keep away protesters has been backed by the Victorian Government.
Sex Party MP Fiona Patten introduced a private member’s bill to Parliament’s Upper House, calling for a 150-metre safe access zone around all clinics providing a pregnancy termination.
The move came after right to life protesters have been gathering outside abortion clinics for decades – intimidating and threatening women and trying to stop them from getting abortions.
Last week, the East Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic lost its bid in the Victorian Supreme Court to order Melbourne City Council to prevent pro-life campaigners from harassing women outside the clinic.
But on Tuesday, the Victorian Government said it would introduce its own bill to the Lower House, based largely on Ms Patten’s bill.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy praised Ms Patten’s hard work and advocacy on the issue outside Parliament on Tuesday.
“This will be Fiona’s bill, largely reflected and represented in the Government bill,” Ms Hennessy said.
“We just have some of the boring enforceability and administrative issues to make sure we get it right.”
Ms Hennessy said there could be changes to the size of the proposed buffer zone, as well as the penalties originally suggested which included up to one year in prison.
“We’re going to be consulting with the Department of Justice and Regulation about the exact penalty,” she said.
“We know we need to get penalties commensurate to other public nuisance offences.
“We need to have penalties that serve as a deterrent but also congruent or rationally similar to the other penalties we have in similar legislation.”
Ms Hennessy said the new bill would be introduced to Parliament by the end of the year.
Ms Patten said she was comfortable with any changes that might be made to the her original bill.
“I suspect the bill that we will finally see at the end of this year will be something that’s robust, but also meets the initial intention of my bill,” she said.
“The art of politics is an art of compromise and this enables us to get the best possible outcomes for the women accessing those services.”