A law banning protesters within 150 metres of abortion clinics has passed in Victoria after the upper house voted overwhelmingly in favour of the bill, reported AAP.
The bill was first introduced by Sex Party MP Fiona Patten before being co-opted by the government.
The legislation – will make it an offence to film people without consent or block access to footpaths, roads and vehicles within the zone around GP clinics, hospitals and other health services offering abortions – was passed by 31 votes to eight in the early hours of Friday morning.
Protestors who breach the so-called buffer zone may face fines or jail time for repeat offences.
According to ABC, Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the changes were “long overdue”.
“Women will no longer be able to be harassed and intimidated around abortion clinics,” she said.
She said the law would send a message to protesters that women should be free to access what is a lawful service.
“But no doubt there will be people trying to test the law,” she said.
“We’ll be working with Victoria Police and all service providers to make sure that we get this law enforced and women are able to go about their lawful business without being the subject of harassment and intimidation.”
Ms. Hennessy said she hoped people understood that it is their right to protest on the steps of Parliament but not outside a medical clinic.
Women’s health campaigners also welcomed the news.
‘Thanks to the bill, women making personal and often difficult health decisions in relation to pregnancy can expect the same degree of privacy, safety and dignity that all Victorians are entitled to when accessing health services,’ Rita Butera, executive director of Women’s Health Victoria, said.
It was voted through on Tuesday night but then went into the committee stage, with opponents demanding details of the finer legal points in a marathon parliamentary debate.
The legislation follows years of complaints from the clinics about pro-life campaigners approaching women outside clinics, urging them not to terminate their pregnancy.