The Dominion Post

Protesters may be at a distance

- Thomas Coughlan

Protesting outside clinics that offer abortions could be banned under proposals outlined by the Government yesterday.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the changes would allow ‘‘safe areas’’ to be created outside abortion clinics that would essentiall­y prevent antiaborti­on activists from protesting within 150m of the site.

One demonstrat­or said they will continue to protest and simply move to an area outside a ‘‘safe area’’, which would be set up on a case-by-case basis.

This was not one of the abortion reform recommenda­tions of the Law Commission, which suggested it ‘‘could not see a strong case’’ for excluding protesters, but did say the issue warranted further considerat­ion.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond welcomed the ‘‘safe area’’ change, saying that the the patients seeking an abortion had a right to privacy.

She said that protesters’ presence could make people seeking an abortion ‘‘grumpy and irritable’’.

‘‘You’re going in for a private consultati­on,’’ she said.

Voice for Life spokeswoma­n Kate Cormack, who had protested outside abortion clinics, said the issue violated the principles of freedom of expression.

She did not herself use the term protester, but referred to herself as a ‘‘sidewalk counsellor’’. ‘‘The safe zones will be an attack on freedom of expression, which is highly concerning that our government would promote them,’’ she said.

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