Just a few weeks after Ottawa officials removed a pre-approved pro-life flag from city hall, the mayor suggested a new law to ban pro-lifers from praying and counseling women outside abortion facilities.
The Ottawa Sun reports Mayor Jim Watson claims women are being harassed by pro-lifers outside city abortion facilities, and the province needs a law to protect them.
Watson wrote a letter to Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi on Tuesday asking for his help. He and city lawyer Rick O’Conner said the current municipal bylaws do not punish pro-life protesters enough when they harass women, according to the report.
“Bylaw enforcement through ticketing cannot provide the same immediate resolution of situations of serious harassment, threats or intimidation — nor can it offer the same level of deterrent effect — as exists where enforcement can be undertaken by means of arrest and the possibility of imprisonment,” O’Connor wrote.
Here’s more from the report:
A 1994 court injunction created “500-metre bubble zones” that forbid anti-abortion protests outside 23 hospitals and clinics in Ontario where abortions were performed then, most particularly at Toronto’s Morgentaler clinic, where most such protests were centred.
The injunction doesn’t apply to Ottawa’s standalone abortion clinic, which wasn’t open at the time. The injunction should be turned into an Ontario-wide Access to Abortion Services Act that applies everywhere, Watson wrote.
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“I am hoping that you will agree that the concerns that moved the Ontario government to action for the people of Toronto in 1994, are no less pressing than they are today, for the people of Ottawa,” the mayor wrote.
Buffer zones are not really about protecting women. What they really do is protect the pro-abortion agenda by stopping pro-life advocates from praying and providing information to women before they walk into the abortion facility. Often pro-life sidewalk counselors can help direct pregnant women to pregnancy resource centers that offer education and material help for themselves and their unborn babies.
Buffer zones also violate individuals’ freedom of speech. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law, saying it restricted pro-life advocates’ freedom of speech.
But abortion has become a hugely controversial topic in Ottawa. Earlier this month, the mayor was involved in a controversy involving a flag flown at city hall recognizing the National March for Life in Canada.
Prior to the march, pro-lifers requested that the city allow them to fly the flag outside the Ottawa City Hall and adopt a proclamation for the pro-life march, as allowed by city government protocols; and city officials granted the requests, CTV News reports. However, when abortion activists protested and complained, city officials removed the flag early.
In response to the situation, Watson asked city officials to review their policies about flags and proclamations, CBC reports. He also referred to the pro-life flag raising as a “mistake.”