ALHR supports the introduction of exclusion zones in NSW to stop harassment at abortion clinics and calls for the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW

March 31, 2017 Abortion law reform

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has expressed strong support for the creation of exclusion zones surrounding reproductive health services clinics as a way of protecting and promoting the human rights of women accessing essential health services.

Like the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 introduced last year by Dr Mehreen Faruqi, the Summary Offences Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2017, introduced in the NSW Legislative Council by the Hon Penny Sharpe MLC on Thursday creates safe access zones of 150 metres around abortion clinics. However, the Bill introduced by Dr Faruqi goes further and also includes provisions to finally decriminalise abortion in NSW and requiring doctors to refer patients on if they themselves have a conscientious objection to abortion.

Both Bills provide for exclusion zones to protect women and staff from harassment and abuse when they enter clinics at which abortions are performed, and also prohibits certain behaviour in those zones. Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT have all successfully introduced 150 metre safe access zones around reproductive health clinics, and the Northern Territory passed similar legislation last week.

ALHR Women and Girl’s Rights Subcommittee Co-Chair Dr Rita Shackel said, “Women seeking abortions and staff working at these clinics report routinely experiencing harassment and intimidation from anti-abortion protestors outside the clinics. Such behaviour infringes on women’s’ right to privacy and dignity when accessing health services. We strongly support safe access zones around abortion clinics as essential to the protection of women and girls and the staff who care for them.”

“UN human rights bodies as well as courts in similar countries such as America and Canada have all found that sensible measures to ensure safe access to women’s health services do not unreasonably limit the right to freedom of expression and assembly”, said Shackel.

“ALHR calls on the NSW Government to support this important legislation, rather than allowing a conscience vote on the matter.”

ALHR also renews its calls for the NSW Government and the opposition to immediately introduce or support legislation to decriminalise abortion in NSW. Unlawful abortion is currently a criminal offence under the NSW Crimes Act. While abortion providers operate in New South Wales, they exist within an ambiguous legal space, and as a result, access to services is limited,” said ALHR Women and Girls’ Rights Co Chair Anna Kerr.

“The reality is that 81% of Australians believe a woman should have the right to choose whether or not she has an abortion and that between half and one quarter of Australian women will access an abortion service in their lifetime.

The current NSW laws are archaic and not reflective of community values or of internationally recognised human rights principles.” Kerr said. “The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have all declared access to safe and legal abortion is a fundamental human right for women and girls.. Those who seek abortions should not be treated as criminals or subjected to harassment and intimidation,”

To arrange an interview with Anna Kerr or Dr Rita Shackel, please contact Matt Mitchell on 0431 980 365 or