Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Act – Bill 242, a private member’s bill in Nova Scotia, seeks to establish “bubble zones” around abortion clinics. This would prohibit pro-life speech on public streets. The activities targeted by this bill are not about protecting the safety of anyone or about ensuring accessing abortion. Rather this bill is all about targeting pro-life speech and trying to silence it.
This law, if passed, prohibits “interference” around an abortion clinic. But interference is not defined as physical aggression, but by its content. The definition includes simply informing people (Section (2)(f)(iii)). It does not target certain ways of informing people. Nor does it target misinformation. Rather it prohibits any information about abortion. Beyond the obvious Charter freedom of expression issues, in what way does the Nova Scotia government think it is improving the life of its citizens by banning information?
It goes on to ban “protest” (Section 2(j)). Again, it is not the nature of the protest that is prohibited, but the content – specifically banning only one side of the abortion issue.
Consider this scenario: two people could be standing next to each other, one with a sign that says, “I regret my abortion” and one with a sign that says “I do not regret my abortion”. Under Bill 242, only the pro-life sign is illegal. What reason does a government have to say all pro-life speech, regardless of how peacefully presented, needs to be banned on certain public streets?
This does nothing to help women. Shielding women from information regarding the humanity of her pre-born child or from information regarding options she might have does not help her. Nor does pretending that as country we are all ambivalent to her choice help her. We care about her and the life of her pre-born child. Women deserve to know this.
But this law suggests that women are incapable of handling this. Nova Scotian women do not need protection from information and beliefs they may disagree with. Protecting women’s rights cannot include fining and imprisoning other women who are pro-life. Yet, that is what this bill does.
It says to women who disagree about the morality of abortion, and want to express that belief, that their freedom of expression does not matter.