White picket fence against a green hedge

Safe access zones a step closer in WA

Sigrid Firth Abortion, Advocacy, Equity and access, Media, Safe access

MEDIA STATEMENT

 1PM AWST WEDNESDAY 14 OCTOBER

SAFE ACCESS ZONES A STEP CLOSER FOR WA

The Western Australian Government has taken a step towards better protection of healthcare staff and patients accessing sexual and reproductive health services following the introduction of a safe access zones bill in Parliament today.

The Public Health Amendment Bill 2020 (‘The Bill’) proposes measures that will enable safe access to healthcare for people in WA.

Safe access zones provide a 150 metre safety bubble around abortion care clinics. They stop harassment, intimidation and public judgement of staff and clients by picketers outside clinics.

WA is one of only two states that does not have safe access zones in place.

Each year picketers spend approximately 2,295 hours outside of the Marie Stopes Australia Midland Clinic. Picketers outside of abortion care facilities can erode community trust and feelings of safety for staff working at these facilities and patients accessing services.

In 2018, Marie Stopes Australia spent more than $6,000 upgrading security cameras and protective measures for staff and clients. Each week the clinic staff provide support to clients who are distressed by the presence of the picketers outside of the clinic.

Last week Marie Stopes Australia published a paper on safe access zones, in collaboration with the University of Queensland and the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance. The paper provides recommendations on key aspects of safe access zone legislation in Western Australia including size, definitions of prohibited behaviour, premises that are covered by the zones and exemptions.

Marie Stopes Australia’s staff and clients are grateful to the McGowan Government for their support of the zones. Over coming months we will be working with politicians across the parties in support of this important Bill.

QUOTES FROM MARIE STOPES AUSTRALIA

Leigh Keane, Nurse Unit Manager, Marie Stopes Australia Midland Clinic:

“Managing a clinic that delivers vital sexual and reproductive health services such as abortion care is a rewarding and challenging role. We care greatly for each client who walks through our doors and we do so without judgement and prejudice.”

“I have worked for Marie Stopes Australia for 5.5 years and the picketers that assemble outside our clinic have had a cumulative impact on me, my team, and the clients in our care. While I respect their right to have opinions about abortion care, I do not agree with their tactics and the negative impacts they have on all of us.”

“I have contended with abusive behaviour, I have been told that what I do is wrong, evil and that I should be ashamed. I have had my car covered in ‘holy water’ that has blistered the paint. My staff have been followed to their cars and confronted by strangers. I have held the hands of clients and support people who have been confused and hurt by the judgement and acts of these picketers.”

“Every person who steps foot in this clinic, be they a nurse, doctor, administrator, counsellor, cleaner or client, should be able to do so feeling safe and respected. Sadly, the presence of picketers jeopardises our ability to do this. It also impacts on our families who worry about the aggression and judgement we have faced over the years.”

QUOTES FROM MARIE STOPES AUSTRALIA

Jamal Hakim, Managing Director:

“In any given year, we estimate that 2,300 clients are impacted by the presence of picketers outside our Midland clinic. Last year picketers spent 2,295 hours standing outside of our clinic upsetting both clients and staff.”

“The Bill introduces reforms that will protect people’s right to access healthcare services safely and with their privacy and dignity protected and respected. Everyone has a right to access their workplace without being intimidated and harassed.”

“We are grateful to the McGowan Government for their support of the zones and we look forward to working with politicians across the parties in support of this important legislation.”

“It really is sad that we need safe access zones. However, the experience of our staff and clients has shown how necessary they are. In places where they have been enacted, they have made a huge, positive impact on the safety and privacy of staff and clients. This Bill will make a big difference for healthcare access in WA.”

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Marie Stopes Australia is a national not for profit provider of sexual and reproductive health services including permanent and long-acting reversible contraception and abortion care. For more information on our clinic network visit mariestopes.org.au

Media contact Marie Stopes Australia, 0428 396 391