Manitoba seeks to introduce bubble zones around abortion providers 



March 20, 2024
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Manitoba’s Minister of Families has introduced a bill to ban pro-life outreach and demonstrations near abortion providers. Bill 8, the “Safe Access to Abortion Services Act” was tabled in the legislature on March 7. Minister Nahanni Fontaine declared in introducing the bill that “Abortion is health care, it’s a human right. And while some citizens may not agree with abortion, don’t have one.” She added that if people “feel the need to protest against these human rights, they’re welcome to do it here at the Manitoba Legislature.” 

If passed, the bill would make it an offense to do any of the following within an “access zone” where surgical abortions or abortifacient drugs are provided:  

(a) “attempt to advise or persuade a person to refrain from accessing abortion services” 

(b) “attempt to inform a person concerning issues related to abortion”  

(c) “attempt to perform an act of disapproval concerning issues related to abortion”  

(d) “persistently request that a person refrain from accessing … or providing or assisting in the provision of abortion services,” or 

(e) continuously or repeatedly observe a facility for the purpose of preventing provision or access.

By default, an access zone (also called a “bubble zone”) covers an area of 50 metres around the perimeter of the facility in question, but it can be expanded by regulation to cover “any other prescribed area.”  

The bill also has provisions that forbid harassing an abortion provider in any place or by electronic means. Canada’s Criminal Code already prohibits harassment, intimidation (including stalking a person or impeding their free movement), assault (including making threats), mischief (including interfering with lawful use of property), nuisance, and causing a public disturbance, making these provisions redundant. 

Manitoba’s Bill 8 targets peaceful efforts to inform, persuade, or express disapproval of abortion, things which are not prohibited by criminal law. The government has not cited any specific instances or evidence of anyone in the province being prevented from accessing or providing abortion, or of anyone being harassed.   

Manitoba’s Bill 8 is similar to legislation already in place in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Quebec.  

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