Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill

Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill

Member’s Bill

310—1

Explanatory note

General policy statement

All New Zealanders deserve to have the right to access health services with their safety, privacy, and dignity protected. Many people have spoken about their experiences accessing abortion services where they have not been afforded that protection.

Protests at and around abortion clinics are common place in New Zealand. These protests amount to targeted harassment of those people who choose to access essential health services. No other group is subjected to protest simply for going to their doctor, nor should these people be.

The Bill provides a regulation-making power to set up safe areas around specific abortion facilities, on a case-by-case basis. The purpose of this regulation-making power is to protect the safety and well-being, and respect the privacy and dignity, of women accessing abortion facilities and practitioners providing and assisting with abortion services.

The Bill defines the type of behaviour that is prohibited as—

  • intimidating, interfering with, or obstructing a protected person either with the intention of frustrating the purpose for which the protected person is in the safe area, or in a manner that an ordinary reasonable person would know would cause emotional distress to a protected person:

  • communicating with, or visually recording, a person in a manner that an ordinary reasonable person would know would cause emotional distress to a protected person.

It also provides that the safe area can be no more than 150 metres from any part of the protected facility.

The decision to make regulations creating a safe area would be made on the recommendation of the Minister of Health, in consultation with the Minister of Justice. The specific size and exact location of the safe area would be determined on a case-by-case basis, as appropriate for the individual facility’s circumstances. The details would be set out in the regulations made for specific premises.

Safe access zone laws are becoming common place around the world. This Bill will not put New Zealand at the forefront of the reproductive rights movement, it will not make us world leaders. It will allow us to follow the lead of certain states and provinces in Australia, Canada, and the United States, in ensuring that people are able to access essential health services with their safety, privacy and dignity protected.

Clause by clause analysis

Clause 1 is the Title clause.

Clause 2 is the commencement clause and provides for this Bill to come into force on the day after it receives Royal assent.

Clause 3 identifies the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 (the principal Act) as the Act being amended by the bill.

Clause 4 amends the definition of safe area in section 2 of the principal Act to fix a cross reference.

Clause 5 inserts new sections 13A to 13C into the principal Act to provide for safe areas. New section 13A provides that it is an offence, punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000, for a person to engage in prohibited behaviour in a safe area. New section 13B empowers a constable to arrest, without a warrant, a person who the constable reasonably believes is engaging in prohibited behaviour in a safe area after having been requested to stop that behaviour. New section 13C empowers the making of regulations for the purposes of new section 13A to prescribe as a safe area any premises at which abortion services are provided and an area around those premises that is within a 150 metre boundary of any part of the premises.