The following letter was sent to the National Post in response to Christie Blatchford's article in today's paper about anti-choice protester Linda Gibbons who has repeatedly been arrested for protesting outside The Morgentaler Clinic in Toronto.
It's not about whether any particular protester is peaceful - many are not. Without a buffer zone, things would quickly escalate to ongoing harassment of patients, including physical interference and a risk of violence.
The buffer zone exists to protect the safety, privacy, and dignity of patients and staff accessing the clinic for a necessary health service - one that only women and some trans people need, making it a gender discrimination issue too.
There are plenty of things that Linda Gibbons can do legally to protest abortion, but she deliberately chooses to repeatedly break the law and repeatedly go to jail - wasting everyone's time and resources, including her own.
The presence of any protester outside the clinic, no matter how seemingly peaceful, can be intimidating to women who can't be expected to know that Gibbons won't directly harass them. Patients deserve privacy at the doorstep of the clinic, not shaming and judgment by strangers.
Joyce Arthur is the founder and Executive Director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, a national pro-choice group in Canada.