This case concerned the constitutionality of “bubble zones” – areas around the homes and offices of doctors who provide abortion services where anti-abortion protest activity is not allowed.  

LEAF intervened before the British Columbia Court of Appeal, in coalition with: 

West Coast LEAF took the lead in managing the coalition. 

Facts 

In 1995, the British Columbia Legislature enacted the Access to Abortion Services Act (the Act). This created “bubble zones” around the homes and offices of doctors who provided abortion services in which anti-abortion protest activity was not permitted.  

Gordon Watson and Donald Spratt were charged under the Act for entering the bubble zone around the Everywoman’s Health Clinic in Vancouver holding anti-abortion signs, and attempting to approach clinic staff. They were convicted in Provincial Court, and those convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The two men received leave to appeal to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, arguing that the legislation violated their freedom of expression rights under s. 2(b) of the Charter

Arguments 

The Coalition argued that any violation of freedom of expression was justified under s. 1 of the Charter. In a society that mandates respect for women’s reproductive choices, and in which abortion is a lawful medical service, the Act represents a vital legislative recognition: women’s decisions concerning their reproductive capacities cannot be meaningful without ensuring reasonably secure access to related medical and health services.  

Outcome 

The British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed the men’s appeals. The Court found that the important objective of the Act – to protect vulnerable women and their health care providers, and allow safe access to health services – justified the limited violation of freedom of expression.  

LEAF is grateful to Nitya Iyer and Matthew Taylor, counsel in this case.  

Download the factum here.

Read the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision here

Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].