*UPDATE: This bill was defeated on second reading, and bubble zones did not come into effect in Manitoba! Reason for thankfulness – and thank you to those of you who spoke up and encouraged your MLA not to support this bill!
Bill 200, a private member’s bill in Manitoba, seeks to establish “bubble zones” around abortion clinics. This would prohibit pro-life speech in some public spaces. This has been a trend of late, with Ontario and Alberta recently passing similar laws.
The purported justification for bubble zone laws is to prohibit threatening and harassing anyone obtaining or providing abortions. However, these activities are already offences in the Criminal Code, and do not need duplication. Bubble zone laws go much further prohibiting advising or informing women or disapproving of abortion in these zones. The pro-life perspective is singled out and censored.
A sign that says “I do not regret my abortion” is permissible within the zone. But remove the word “not” and it would become illegal, subject to a fine or even arrest. This is not about the safety or access of anyone approaching an abortion clinic: it’s about silencing one perspective on abortion.
Bill 200 is constitutionally vulnerable, unnecessary, and it seeks to censor pro-life speech and the ability of women and men to offer more options to women considering an abortion. Bubble zone laws patronize women and restrict women’s access to more information about their legal choices. It was encouraging to hear Premier Brian Pallister rightly point out that other laws already exist to deal with harassment or blocking of access, and that this bill would erode Manitoban’s rights by targeting peaceful expression of the pro-life view.
We are asking you to write your MLA encouraging them not to support this law, but to stand for the free expression of the pro-life message.