In another devastating blow to the pro-life community this week, pro-lifers in one Canadian province are being denied their freedom to speak outside a local abortion facility.
CBC Radio-Canada reports the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador issued a decision Tuesday blocking pro-lifers from protesting within 40 meters (about 131 feet) of the Athena Health Clinic abortion facility in St. John’s, Canada. The ruling also bans pro-lifers from protesting within 40 meters of abortion clinic staff’s homes, the report states.
Abortion activist initially wanted a 100-meter (about 328 foot) buffer zone, but defense lawyers negotiated the size down to 40 meters, still no small distance, according to the report.
Here is more from the report:
Defence lawyer Bob Simmonds said that striking this deal stops the matter from proceeding to a lengthy court trial that would require calling witnesses and dealing with sensitive issues,
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He said this matter required balancing freedom of speech with a patient’s right to intimidation-free health care.
“We wre able to come to a resolution that I’m sure both sides are not 100 per cent happy with, but both sides realize strikes that balance,” he said.
Simmonds was representing Colette Fleming and Patrick Hanlon, two anti-abortion advocates in St. John’s.
Attorney Lynn Moore, who represented the abortion facility, celebrated the decision as a victory for her clients and their patients.
“The important goal for us was that people be allowed to access this perfectly legal service without harassment or intimidation,” Moore said.
Canada is becoming a much more hostile environment for pro-lifers who protest and sidewalk counsel outside of abortion facilities. In some areas of the country, there is a “bubble zone” law that prohibits pro-lifers from protesting within 500 feet of abortion facilities. In 2015, a 67-year-old grandma named Linda Gibbons was arrested and jailed for violating the law and encouraging women outside abortion clinics to choose life for their unborn babies, LifeNews reported.
Pro-life sidewalk counselors have more freedom in the U.S. after the Supreme Court decided in an unanimous ruling that buffer zones, which are similar to Canada’s bubble zones, were “inconsistent with the First Amendment” because they “restrict access to ‘public way[s] and ‘sidewalk[s],” places that have traditionally been open for speech activities.
That decision was a victory for the pro-life movement and freedom of speech in America, but it did not strike down all buffer zone laws. Pro-lifers in various parts of the United States are still fighting to overturn other buffer zone ordinances, such as one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and another in New Hampshire.
Buffer zones not only restrict pro-lifers’ freedom of speech, they also hinder women’s access to information about alternatives to abortion. Abortion clinics are in the business of selling abortions and often do not give women accurate information about the abortion procedure, their unborn child or the alternatives available to them. Sidewalk counselors often provide this information, giving women one last opportunity to make a life-affirming decision for their unborn babies.