Nova Scotia rams through ban on pro-life free speech outside abortion centers

Nova Scotia rams through ban on pro-life free speech outside abortion centers

A new law banning pro-life free speech in front of abortion centers in Nova Scotia has now become law after being rammed through the provincial legislature at a breakneck pace over the course of only eight days.

The Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Act — Bill 242,  was introduced by NDP Nova Scotia MLA Claudia Chender on March 2 and received Royal Assent on March 10. 

The bill went through first reading to become law at an extreme pace. Nova Scotia pro-life advocate, Ruth Robert, coordinator for Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), spoke out against the bill to the Committee on Law Amendments last week, and said that the speed at which the bill was introduced was “absolutely terrible.”

“I’m horrified about this. It’s just absolutely terrible,” says Robert, who added that not a single MLA stood in opposition to the bill.

“It’s just the beginning of the removal of our constitutional freedoms if we don’t stop and fight this.”

The new law bans any type of pro-life witness in an “access zone” established 50 meters around an abortion center.

The bill states that “no person, while in an access zone” shall “engage in interference;” “engage in a protest;” “engage in besetting;” or “continuously or repeatedly observe” a “patient, a physician who provides abortion services or a service provider” or a “building in which abortion services are provided or facilitated.”

The bill makes it clear that no person shall “request that a “patient refrain from accessing abortion services,” or a “physician or a service provider refrain from providing, or facilitating the provision of, abortion services.”

In addition to creating a “bubble zone” around abortion centers, Bill-242 bans the photographing, videotaping, and audio recording of anyone within the “access zone,” which is defined as hospitals that provide abortions but could also extend to offices and even residences of those who perform abortions if “[t]he Governor in Council may, by regulation,” decides to do so.

The bill was supported by the once pro-life Catholic premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil. In speaking about the bill, McNeil said, “On behalf of our government, on behalf of this side of the House, I am honoured to stand and support your bill.”

Robert grew up in Saudi Arabia, a nation where freedom of expression is not tolerated. She told the committee that the bill is “extremely troublesome because it does not protect women; it merely violates people’s constitutional rights.”

“We already have laws in place to protect women,” she said.

Robert told the committee that women are very often coerced into having an abortion and need to be told that help is available.

“And so, I stand outside that hospital, not to condemn women if they need to make this choice if they feel that it’s necessary. I disagree, but I’m not there to condemn,” said Robert to the committee.

“I am there for the women who want their children and feel they have no other recourse, to say: ‘I’m here and I can tell you from experience sometimes there are other options.’”

Robert noted to the committee in her testimony that the bill violates due process as well as the freedom of religion. She brought up a troubling part of the bill, Section 15, which reads: “A police officer may arrest, without warrant, a person who the police officer believes on reasonable and probable grounds has committed or is committing an offence under this Act.”

“How do you define reasonable or probable? If a nun walks through there — most nuns are pro-life — their presence might cause some people who are Catholic going in for an abortion to reconsider,” said Robert to the committee.

“Is that grounds for arrest? [Would this not be] violation of due process, violation of freedom of religion? She might not even be protesting, but her freedom of religion is in jeopardy.”