A Canadian man who has been protesting abortion for 39 years could be severely restricted in his outreach if a new bill becomes law.
This week, legislators in Newfoundland and Labrador introduced a bill to prohibit protests within 50 meters (about 164 feet) of abortion facilities and 160 meters (about 525 feet) of abortion providers’ homes, according to the Globe and Mail. The bill also would prohibit people from taking photographs or films of people within the zones, the report states.
The “buffer zone” legislation would make it difficult for pro-lifers like Mike Basha to continue their outreach. Basha told The Telegram that he joins other pro-lifers every Good Friday outside of the Western Memorial Regional Hospital to protest abortion and encourage moms to choose life for their unborn babies. It’s something he has been doing for 39 years.
“We should be allowed to stand our ground in a free democratic world,” Basha said. “Abortion is downright murder and the places where this is happening is where we should be allowed to protest.”
Buffer zones are a tool that abortion supporters use to restrict pro-lifers’ freedom of speech, often preventing them from approaching pregnant women to offer life-affirming information and resources.
Here’s more from the Globe and Mail:
The proposed Access to Abortion Services Act would create protester-free zones around all facilities providing abortions around the province.
Parsons said the legislation is based on the 1996 law providing similar zones in British Columbia — legislation that has been upheld by that province’s courts.
The Newfoundland penalty for a first offence would be a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in jail. If a person is convicted more than once, the maximum penalty would be up to $10,000 and a year in jail.
Pro-life protesters and sidewalk counselors in the United States also have had to deal with abortion facility buffer zones, most ranging between 25 feet and 50 feet.
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Unlike Canadian courts, a number of American courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have issued rulings against these prohibitive buffer zones. In 2014 in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law that prohibited pro-life free speech outside abortion clinics.
The Massachusetts law created a 35-foot buffer zone restricting pro-life advocates from speaking with people entering or exiting abortion facilities. Saying the abortion buffer zone was “inconsistent with the First Amendment,” the Supreme Court ruled that it violated the First Amendment because it “restricts access to ‘public way[s]’ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open for speech activities.”
However, the high court’s decision did not apply to all buffer zones. Pro-lifers are involved in several on-going lawsuits challenging buffer zones in other cities across the U.S.