Manitoba Tories say bill to ban anti-abortion protests should be expanded

Manitoba’s Opposition Progressive Conservatives say a government plan to ban anti-abortion protests near some health-care facilities should be expanded to cover more areas and all protests, including picket lines.

Tory health critic Kathleen Cook said Wednesday she plans to move an amendment to a bill the NDP government has put before the legislature.

The bill would create buffer zones of 50 metres to 150 metres around health facilities that provide abortions and the homes of abortion providers. Inside those zones, people would not be allowed to block access, to try to dissuade people from getting an abortion or to “perform an act of disapproval” of abortion.

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The Tories accused the government of trying to create a wedge issue by singling out abortion protests and providing protection only to people seeking abortions.

“I believe that same right should be extended to all Manitoba patients, whether they’re going for cancer care or surgery or going into a personal care home,” Cook said.

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Expanding the ban to cover picket lines by striking workers might be challenged in court, Cook said, but family members visiting loved ones in health facilities should not have to wade through such lines.

The amendment is unlikely to pass, as the NDP government has a majority in the legislature, with 34 of the 57 seats. And the NDP did not appear open to changing the bill.

“It’s a good piece of legislation and we’re looking forward to seeing it receive royal assent,” said a statement from the office of Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents many health-care support workers, accused the Tories of having “disdain” for labour rights.

“Workers have the legal right to strike outside their place of employment to call for better working conditions, including health-care facilities,” CUPE Manitoba president Gina McKay said.

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