Revoke the permit: Stop Anti-Choice Protesters from intimidating women accessing Ottawa's Morgentaler Abortion Clinic!
September 28, 2010 Pertrina Bonia, Special Events Clerk, City of Ottawa Todd Allinotte, Coordinator By-Law Services, City of Ottawa Patricia Ann Belanger, Case Coordinator, City of Ottawa Diane Holmes, Councillor Ward 14 - Somerset Dear Ms. Bonia, Mr. Allinotte, Ms. Belanger, and Councillor Holmes, We strongly object to the decision of the City of Ottawa to give anti-choice activists a permit to protest across the street from the Morgentaler Clinic on Bank Street as part of their 40 days for “life” vigil. Women who choose to exercise their legal right to access abortion services at the Morgentaler Clinic should not be subject to the intimidation and harassment of anti-choice activists. Whether these anti-choice activists are waving signs, shouting, praying, chasing down women with their pamphlets or just staring menacingly at women who enter the Morgentaler Clinic, it is intimidation and harrassment – whether these anti-choice activists are across the street or not. Women should not have to run the gauntlet of anti-choice activists in order to access legal health services. The City of Ottawa must immediately revoke this permit in order to respect the dignity, privacy, and legal rights of women to unimpeded access to health services at the Morgentaler Clinic. As we urge you to revoke this permit, we suggest that you consider the legal precedent. Protesters have the right to protest where they like unless that right infringes upon the rights of others to unobstructed access to legal medical services. Court injunctions bar anti-choice protesters from protesting across the street at certain clinics in Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec. In British Columbia, the Access to Abortion Services Act or “bubble zone law" protects two clinics and a hospital that perform abortions from protesters. The legal precedent in this country demonstrates that protests in front of abortion clinics violate the constitutional rights of women accessing a necessary medical service; these protests have also been shown to endanger the health of women patients. Although no specific injunction or law is in place to protect the Morgentaler Clinic in Ottawa from anti-choice protesters, it is highly inappropriate to issue permits for activities which are illegal in other Canadian jurisdictions because they violate women’s rights, endanger their health, and put the clinic and its staff at risk of violence. This permit must be revoked immediately. We look forward to hearing your response. Sincerely, The undersigned