With the WA Parliament set to begin debating the McGowan Government's Public Health (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2020 this week, the Australian Christian Lobby says the proposed legislation is deeply flawed and unnecessary.
The WA State Director of ACL, Peter Abetz said "For instance, the Bill creates the unacceptable situation where a person could be prosecuted for engaging in a conversation about abortion which they did not initiate.
"If I am approached within 150 metres of an abortion clinic by a clinic staff member or a person going to the clinic, and they initiate a conversation about abortion, and I say anything that they claim caused them anxiety or distress, the Bill could result in my imprisonment for 12 months or a fine of up to $12,000.
"Abortion clinic staff could use this provision to entrap people praying outside the clinic.
"The Bill is designed to shut down silent prayers which have occurred outside Perth’s abortion clinics for over 20 years. Nobody who prays near those clinics has ever been charged for inappropriate conduct.
"Women who feel pressured to have an abortion have approached the same people and spoken with them. Over 50 women have declined to proceed with the abortion thanks to the compassionate help offered to them. The Department of Health's consultation document Safe Access Zones - A proposal for reform in Western Australia Report 2020 (p16) acknowledges submissions from women who said their conversations with compassionate people outside clinics have helped them change their mind.
"This bill is a misguided attempt to deny women access to the compassionate help they desperately want.
"The proposed legislation is also superfluous, as the Public Order in Streets Act 1984 already provides police with very broad power to control conduct in public places."