NZLS calls for clearer guidance for abortion clinic ‘safe areas’

Society says proposed legislation needs to be “consistent with fundamental rights and freedoms”

NZLS calls for clearer guidance for abortion clinic ‘safe areas’

The New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) has called on the government to provide clearer guidance for abortion clinic “safe areas.”

NZLS recently told a parliamentary select committee that the definition of “prohibited behaviour” in the “safe areas” proposed in the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill for abortion facilities is “inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and needs to be reconsidered.”

The bill seeks to amend legislation to provide for regulations to set up safe areas around specific abortion facilities on a case-by-case basis.

According to NZLS, the bill is needed to “rectify a process error made in Parliament during progress of the Abortion Legislation Bill in 2019.” However, the society told the Health select committee that it is “essential the proposed definition of ‘prohibited behaviour’ is amended to ensure the bill is consistent with fundamental rights and freedoms.”

“The definition of ‘prohibited behaviour’ needs to be completely reconsidered,” said Rishworth. “It would be better to clearly set out the types of behaviours that are intended to be prohibited in safe zones. That is the approach taken by some Canadian provinces and Australian states. It would clearly signal the types of behaviour intended to be prohibited, rather than relying on very broad concepts of ‘intimidating, interfering with, or obstructing’ for example, as currently set out in the bill.”

Rishworth added that, ideally, any changes to the proposed definition “would be made available for public submissions but in any event ought to be subject to a new bill of rights vetting process by the Attorney-General.”

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