This week, a group of US origin calling themselves 40 Days For Life have announced plans to set up a “prayer vigil” outside a Perth reproductive health clinic during Lent.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia condemns these plans. What these pious idiots are proposing is to harass women and presumably their partners who accompany them to the clinic. Some of the women attending the clinic may be seeking an abortion. Apparently the protesters believe they have some right to interfere with and obstruct women who make this personal choice. They are wrong. Access to safe and legal abortion has been recognised by the United Nations as a basic human right since 2005.

Since November 2015, the state of Victoria has provided for safe access zones around reproductive health clinics, preventing anti-abortion protesters from coming within 150 meters to intimidate vulnerable women entering them. The Bill was passed by the government with 31 votes to 8, after being introduced by Sex Party MP Fiona Patten.

Similar buffer zones now exist in three states – Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory – with similar laws proposed for New South Wales.

Reproductive health clinic safe access zones are a welcome solution to a longstanding problem, ensuring that women have the right to access a safe and legal medical service without being harassed in any way.

AFA President Michael Boyd noted:

After a year in which Australians have begun to face up to the realities of domestic violence it is disappointing to see that a U.S. inspired hate group intend to publicly harass women exercising freedom of choice. The attitude that such behaviour is acceptable is the cornerstone of much domestic violence and I believe will be condemned by most Australians. Australians have shown that they reject hatred, intimidation and harassment of women.

Whilst we like to import our iPhones and gadgets from the U.S., I believe most Australians prefer that the noxious politics and attitudes of the religious right remain in the U.S. Recent outcries against misogyny from Julien and Jeffy from Real Social Dynamics, and from ReturnOfKings clearly demonstrate this. 40 Days For Life is importing religiously-inspired hatred, intimidation and harassment of women – and should be condemned. The AFA applauds those governments that have legislated for exclusion zones and invites the remaining States to do so as a matter of urgency.

It is time for Western Australia and other Australian jurisdictions to step up and follow the lead of Victoria, Tasmania and ACT – and legislate similar zones to prevent the intimidation and harassment of people who work at, visit or use the services of all Australian reproductive health clinics.

Michael Boyd

Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 1062
Lane Cove NSW 1595

Phone: (02) 8007 4503
Email: [email protected]

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