As of this week, a person in St. John’s making the big and personal decision to have an abortion at the Athena Clinic on Lemarchant Road will no longer have to face pro-life protesters directly outside the clinic. Thanks to a new injunction, protestors are no longer allowed within a 40-meter radius of the building.
Very, very, very few people take abortion lightly, and the emotional weight of the decision can last long after the procedure, yet, for the last 26 years, they’ve had to face heckling from protesters as they entered the clinic — they had to walk right past the pro-lifers, who often shamed, judged, intimidated, or even photographed them.
Rolanda Ryan, owner of the Athena Health Centre, and her lawyer Lynn Moore made this happen, and both consider it an overdue victory for women’s rights in NL. They were shooting for a 100-meter band on pro-life protests, but defence lawyer Bob Simmons negotiated the radius down to 40 metres.
Essentially, Moore was willing to compromise because everyone has their right to freedom of expression, but it needn’t be so invasive of personal space upon entry to a healthcare clinic. Striking the deal also prevented a drawn out court trial that would require people taking the stand to talk about personal and sensitive issues.
Protesters have also been known to protest outside the homes of clinic staff — they may no longer do so within 40 meters. Both battles have been in progress since November of 2015, and came into effect June 28th of 2016.
The court’s decision, however, is an injunction, not legislation — legislation makes police intervention easier. So this fall, Moore will be pushing for legislation to prohibit protesting outside of abortion clinics.