Overwhelming support for zones shows WA cares

Sigrid Firth Media, Safe access

Staff and clients at Marie Stopes Australia are one step closer to having their privacy, dignity and safety protected from anti-choice picketers with the WA Government committing to introduce Safe Access Zone legislation this year.

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.

Western Australia and South Australia are the last states in Australia to introduce the zones.

Director of Public Affairs and Policy and Spokesperson for Marie Stopes Safe Access Zone campaign, Jacquie O’Brien, says there has been widespread support for the zones in WA for a number of years.

“We have been so heartened by the messages of support from the community whenever we have had issues with picketers.

It is a sad reality that we need these zones outside abortion services, but the fact is they work”, Ms O’Brien says.

“When a client comes to see us for any service, they do not want to be confronted by complete strangers surveying them or judging them as they access a sensitive medical procedure. It can be very intimidating and upsetting for them and for their support people.

“If you want to express your ethical objections to abortion or any other health service, standing outside a clinic and intimidating staff and clients is not the way to do it.”

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.

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

Marie Stopes Australia’s staff and clients are grateful to the McGowan Government for their support of the zones and the organisation looks forward to working with politicians across the parties in support of this important legislation.