It’s time for the intimidation and harrassment of women outside abortion clinics in NSW to stop.

Enough is enough.

Women trying to access abortion clinics should not have to run the gauntlet of people who try to stop them with physical harassment and verbal abuse.

Women should not be jostled or filmed, they should not have to look at distorted graphic images or be told that they are murderers and are going to hell.

The dedicated staff that work in abortion clinics should not be harassed, followed or threatened for simply going to work.

This week I was proud to give notice that I will be introducing a bill into the NSW Parliament that will enforce a 150-metre safe access zone around reproductive health clinics where abortions are performed.

If passed, my bill will protect the safety and wellbeing and respect the privacy and dignity of women accessing reproductive health services as well as employees and others who enter the clinic.

The bill will make it an offence to harass, threaten, intimidate, interfere with, hinder, impede or obstruct anyone within 150m of a reproductive health service where abortions are performed.

The bill will also make it an offence to record, film or take photos of any person accessing an abortion clinic.

Safe access zones are already successfully operating in Victoria, in Tasmania and in the ACT.

The zones are making an incredible difference. This week the laws stared operating in Victoria and it was reported how a clinical psychologist who had worked in a clinic was able to come to work for the first time in thirty years without being harassed.

Organisations like the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants and Right to Life argue that safe access zones laws are anti freedom of speech and breach the right to protest.

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No one is saying that these groups cannot speak out about their views on abortion or protest against abortion if they wish to, but the place to do that is in front of parliament where the decisions are made about the laws that govern health services like abortion not on the footpath outside the clinics where women are seeking to enter.

The Reverend Fred Nile has said that my bill is an attack on the right to pray and groups in front of clinics are only involved in silent prayer.

The reports of harassment, distress and sometimes even violence outside clinics at the hands of these groups refute this claim.

I regularly walk past the clinic in Surry Hills. What is going on there is not about silent prayer, it is about intimidation and harassment.

And it is time for it to stop.

Penny Sharpe is a member of the NSW Legislative Council. If you want to get in touch with Penny you can email her or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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