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Alberta government to increase size of abortion clinic no-protest zones

The Alberta government is changing its proposed legislation on abortion clinics to triple the potential size of no-protest zones.

NDP backbencher Deborah Drever put forward the amendment during debate Tuesday night on Health Minister Sarah Hoffman’s bill.

Drever says cabinet needs flexibility to increase the safety zones to 150 metres if the proposed minimum of 50 metres doesn’t stop harassment of women and staff at clinics.

Independent legislature member Derek Fildebrandt argued against the amendment, saying women and staff deserve protection but that must be balanced against respect for freedom of speech.

The Opposition United Conservatives did not vote for or against the measure but instead walked out en masse prior to roll call.

Party leader Jason Kenney has said existing civil remedies are sufficient for abortion clinic protests, and he and his caucus are abstaining from what they call a deliberately political and provocative piece of legislation.