1 September 2015
The Human Rights Law Centre welcomes the news that the Victorian Government will back the creation of safe access zones to ensure women can safely and privately access health services without being harassed or intimidated.
The HRLC’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said safe access zones are about respecting the privacy and dignity of women accessing terminations.
“This is a very positive development. For too long women have been subjected to abuse and intimidation when exercising their right to access legal health services,” said Ms Howie.
The announcement follows last week’s failed attempt in the Supreme Court to compel the City of Melbourne to take adequate steps to ensure women could safely access a fertility clinic in East Melbourne.
Ms Howie said safe access zones are a sensible and practical solution that can strike a healthy balance between the right to freedom of expression and the rights privacy, security and healthcare.
“No one is suggesting that people should be prevented from expressing their opinions, we’re just asking that they do so in a way that respects women’s rights to privacy, security and access to healthcare,” said Ms Howie.
In 2013 Tasmania introduced access zones around clinics in which terminations are conducted. Similar zones also exist in the United States and Canada. The ACT government has also released an exposure draft of a bill to create patient privacy zones that support women’s rights to access health services privately and free from intimidating conduct.
In August 2015, Victorian Sex Party MP Fiona Patten introduced a bill to amend the Public Health and Wellbeing Act and create safe access zones in Victoria. The bill received considerable support from the Victorian Greens, Trades Hall, the Australian Medical Association, Women’s Health Victoria and many other groups. The government now proposes to introduce a bill in similar form, albeit with some amendments.
“This is a great example of MPs from various political persuasions working together to find sensible and practical ways to stand up for women’s rights. Well done to all involved,” said Ms Howie.
The Human Rights Law Centre will continue to provide assistance regarding the details of the proposed bill.