The provincial government has announced an increased access zone around the Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic to protect the dignity and privacy of staff and patients, effective June 1, 2018.

The zone has been expanded from its original 10 metres to 50 in some places, depending on land features and property lines.

Within those 50 metres, any protests, interference, intimidation, and recording of those providing abortion services or of patients are prohibited.

People who do not respect the access zone and continue to protest in it can be arrested without a warrant, as per the Access to Abortion Services Act.

“All people who use the B.C. health-care system, and who provide services for it, should be treated with courtesy, and with respect for their dignity and privacy. Access zones work to ensure this, and to support women seeking healthcare services, staff providing the services, and others visiting the facility,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.

The Access to Abortion Services Act was passed in B.C. in 1995—the first legislation of its kind in Canada. The legislation strikes a balance between peoples’ right to free expression, and the right of the patient and provider to an intimidation-free environment.

Four other facilities in B.C. already have access zones, sometimes referred to as “bubble zones,” established similar to the Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic.

“Everyone has the right to be free from intimidation and harassment, especially when they are accessing or providing health-care services,” said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity.

“Expanding this access zone will remove a barrier to care, and help ensure women can access the services they need.”