Safe access zones, a big win for women

Safe access zones – a win for women and a win for parliamentary process


Opinion
CWA of NSW president Annette Turner says the Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics Bill is a great step forward for better access to health services.

CWA of NSW president Annette Turner says the Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics Bill is a great step forward for better access to health services.

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CWA of NSW president Annette Turner says the Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics Bill is a great step forward for better access to health services.

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Too often we have seen our politicians acting in ways that we would reprimand our children for – just over three weeks ago we saw this behaviour escalate into a screaming  match across the floor of the NSW Legislative Assembly during question time, as members from each and every party took it upon themselves to use tax payer time to sledge insults at each other.

Thankfully, every now and again however, some common sense creeps in and we catch a glimpse of what positive policy outcomes are possible with a collaborative and constructive approach that seeks solutions instead of looking for a quick sound-bite. Last week, we saw the successful passage of the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018.

This Bill (now passed) will establish safe access zones around Reproductive Health Clinics of 150m, ensuring that women, their partners and families, can access the services in these clinics without harassment. This Bill was sponsored by The Hon. Penny Sharpe (Labor) and The Hon. Trevor Khan (Nationals) in the Legislative Council. It was introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Leslie Williams (Nationals). Both Labor and the Nationals have listened to their respective constituents on what was a real issue and have worked together to engineer a solution. 

CWA’s Albury Evening Branch raised this issue with our wider membership back in 2016 and we have been lobbying ever since for the establishment of safe access zones.

The majority of our members that passed this issue on to CWA policy at our conference in 2016, believe that women should be entitled to visit any medical provider of choice without feeling harassed or intimidated. In some areas of regional and rural NSW the problem is keenly felt as there are fewer options for women overall.

By establishing an exclusion zone around reproductive health clinics, NSW will be brought into line with other jurisdictions including Tasmania, Victoria, the Northern Territory and the ACT. It will also ensure that women from many walks of life, and for varied personal reasons, can safely access services when needed without the threat of protest, intimidation and general harassment.

For the CWA of NSW, the passage of this Bill was not a debate about the ethical and personal opinions in relation to abortion. We do not have a policy position on this issue as it was not what the Bill was about. The issue is, at its core, about a right to safely access reproductive services; even if those services are not something that everyone would use, or indeed, agree with. 

In a civilised society, we have an obligation to protect each other and this includes protection from bullying and disrespect. The successful passage of this Bill is undoubtedly a great step forward for better access to reproductive health services but also importantly, a great illustration of what can be achieved if the parliament is actually used in the way it was always intended. 

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