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Why we need safe access zones outside Canberra’s abortion clinics

By Steven Bailey - 1 September 2015 97

act health moore street

Many years ago, as a student of the Australian National University, I’d often ride my bike past the ACT Health building in the city and wonder why the front was often tasselled with such a ghoulish gathering. Perhaps it was a mimed version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show… in slow motion?

Always in a rush, and with a propensity for doing my homework whilst in transit, it wasn’t until years later that I realised the true nature of this ghostly and macabre congregation. They were there to shame and intimidate women who were seeking an abortion

When I first saw the trembling hands holding crosses juxtaposed with images of mutilated foetuses, I was bemused. I asked myself how people with such life experience could be so willing to torment people much younger than themselves.

According to Medicare statistics released in 2009, approximately one third of elective pregnancy terminations were for women under the age of twenty, many of whom were minors.

As of last night, it looks like Fiona Patten MLC, with the support of the Victorian Labor Government, will be successful in passing her safe access zones legislation. This legislation will protect vulnerable women and medical professionals from intimidation, persecution, and unnecessary suffering caused by protesting religious extremists in Victoria.

The purpose of the legislation is to protect people in their time of need with a 150-metre buffer zone around the fertility clinic or medical facility.

For me, this was never a debate about freedom of speech. For instance, I don’t think we teach our children enough of the beauty of literature and music in secondary schools, but that doesn’t mean I should be allowed to shame teachers and students as they walk to school each day.

We wouldn’t allow people to be intimidated each time they walked to a hospital or a psychologist’s clinic, or to donate blood.

This isn’t an issue of freedom of speech and it isn’t even an issue about abortion. The issue is whether we think it is right to allow women and children to be persecuted and abused by religious extremists in a time when they surely need society’s love and support.

To argue against safe access zones, on the basis of freedom of speech, is to condone the persecution and abuse of women and children in their time of need.

Safe access zones are about a progressive and caring Australia protecting vulnerable women and children. As a member of the Australian Sex Party, it’s encouraging to see that ACT legislators are beginning to adopt our policies. One, understandably, wonders why these policies were not adopted years before now but rather in the lead up to the first election where the ASP will be a serious contender in 2016. But… imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

What’s Your opinion?


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97 Responses to
Why we need safe access zones outside Canberra’s abortion clinics
Grimm 12:53 pm 02 Sep 15

chewy14 said :

Grimm said :

chewy14 said :

Of course this is ALL about freedom of speech and nothing to do with “abuse” or “intimidation”. You simply don’t agree with their political opinion on abortion so you want to ban them from expressing it. If they are actively harrassing people, they should be stopped from doing so but if they are simply praying/chanting or holding signs then they are well within their rights and should be allowed to do so.

Hurling abuse at some poor woman probably already having a hard enough time with her decision, and quite likely to be in a fragile mental state is what they do, and it is absolutely abuse, harassment and intimidation. If all they did was hold signs and pray to their sky fairy, I doubt people would care so much.

Um,
have you ever seen their protests? They don’t hurl abuse at anyone, they simply say prayers.

If they were abusing people, I would agree with you.

Um, did you read my first post on the subject? I used to walk past them on a daily basis and watched several times as they abused people entering and exiting the building. This may have changed in the past couple of years, but it was the case when I was working on Moore St.

watto23 12:53 pm 02 Sep 15

Freedom of speech is a funny issue. We had a federal government complaining laws breached freedom of speech and wanting to change them, yet now cry foul that the newspapers are picking on them…..

People should be free to say what they want. However when that freedom infringes on the freedoms of others, then its really no longer just a freedom of speech issue any more. These people are standing out the front and while they aren’t intimidating to me, to someone who is trying to make a very tough decision it may very well be. They could conduct the same prayers in Garema place and get a far greater audience and also provide information, so that in the future if people are in that situation they’ll have received their information at a time that they were better able to comprehend it. Trying to convince people when they mentally are struggling with a decision doesn’t help them.

I’ve also heard interviews and to be honest the whole silent majority and people need to know murder occurs in that building are very weak arguments. I’m just thankful we don’t have a strong conservative anti abortion stance in Australia. Reading about the views of the Republican candidates for the US presidential election, many have opinions of abortion where even rape and incest are not considered valid reasons. If adoption was a far easier process then maybe, just maybe you could try to minimise abortions. But ask anyone trying to adopt how painful it is.

Mysteryman 12:53 pm 02 Sep 15

chewy14 said :

Ah, I love to see the usual supporters of protesting and freedom turn around and want to ban other people enjoying the same right to political expression that they enjoy.

Of course this is ALL about freedom of speech and nothing to do with “abuse” or “intimidation”. You simply don’t agree with their political opinion on abortion so you want to ban them from expressing it. If they are actively harrassing people, they should be stopped from doing so but if they are simply praying/chanting or holding signs then they are well within their rights and should be allowed to do so.

I personally support abortion rights for pragmatic and health reasons, but these people believe that human beings are being killed, the idea that they shouldn’t be able to protest in these locations is ridiculous.

I personally don’t agree with other protest movements that happen around this city and I’d love for them to be moved on and stopped from harrassing/impeding others going about their lawful business. But because I recognise their right to protest, I would never support any legal move to remove their rights.

If you want to solve this issue, why do they have abortion clinics in the first place? Surely they could incorporate this function within the hospital(s), in which case this issue would never arise becuase the people wouldn’t have to walk past these protesters or feel intimidated?

100% spot on. This is another case of “freedom of speech but only when I agree with the speech”. I doubt very much that there is any abuse being perpetrated by the people protesting in the city.

Evilomlap 12:40 pm 02 Sep 15

I agree these people are backwards, zealous, and complete nut jobs, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen them ‘hurl abuse’ at anyone. Then again I have never observed them for any length of time.

That said, they must choose to conduct their protests there for a reason, when they could protest this issue pretty much anywhere. I’m guessing that reason is to intimidate the people accessing that service.

Intimidation can take many forms, it doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘hurling abuse’ at people.

madelini 12:29 pm 02 Sep 15

Alexandra Craig said :

These people (protestors) make me sick. It’s not freedom of speech, it’s abuse.

Where I worked in Surry Hills in Sydney meant I had to walk past one of these clinics every day. And every single time they used to stop me and carry on. It was infuriating for obvious reasons, but also – I wasn’t going in there? They knew who I was, I walked past every day. Though, maybe they were trying to covert me because I made it clear I did not support their views or their actions the first time I walked past.

I’d like to see safe zones brought in nation-wide and hefty fines for anyone who breaches the zone.

Grimm said :

chewy14 said :

Of course this is ALL about freedom of speech and nothing to do with “abuse” or “intimidation”. You simply don’t agree with their political opinion on abortion so you want to ban them from expressing it. If they are actively harrassing people, they should be stopped from doing so but if they are simply praying/chanting or holding signs then they are well within their rights and should be allowed to do so.

Hurling abuse at some poor woman probably already having a hard enough time with her decision, and quite likely to be in a fragile mental state is what they do, and it is absolutely abuse, harassment and intimidation. If all they did was hold signs and pray to their sky fairy, I doubt people would care so much.

The group outside the clinic in the City tend to be mostly a few older people and a priest who stand and pray, usually surrounded by signs saying “Pray for lives affected by abortion”. We’re lucky in Canberra, in that way.

If it ever progressed to verbal abuse or intimidation, the authorities would need to be called. That said, I don’t think that walking straight out of the clinic and into a group of people protesting and questioning your medical choices is a good thing for anyone.

Evilomlap 12:27 pm 02 Sep 15

Steven mentions this in his last paragraph but here is a link to anyone interested in what he’s referring to:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/shane-rattenbury-acknowledges-protester-past-as-he-tables-abortionprotest-bill-20150806-giswsf.html

chewy14 12:24 pm 02 Sep 15

Here_and_Now said :

chewy14 said :

Ah, I love to see the usual supporters of protesting and freedom turn around and want to ban other people enjoying the same right to political expression that they enjoy.

Of course this is ALL about freedom of speech and nothing to do with “abuse” or “intimidation”.

No, this is not about the rightist obsession with ‘freedom of speech’.

The praying and protesting people have actively harrassed people going into the building with their business, even those who were going for abortion-unrelated reasons. (Source: people who work there and have this happen.)

chewy14 said :

You simply don’t agree with their political opinion on abortion so you want to ban them from expressing it.

A bold and not necessarily accurate assumption.

chewy14 said :

If they are actively harrassing people, they should be stopped from doing so but if they are simply praying/chanting or holding signs then they are well within their rights and should be allowed to do so.

Exactly. Well said: thanks to the active harrassment they shall be required to carry out their business elsewhere.

If this was about shutting down protest of a cause people didn’t believe in, it wouldn’t be an exclusion zone, the law would be about stopping them altogether.

I’m sure you’ve got more evidence about this “active harrassment” than “someone who works there told me so”?

I’ve walked past this protest countless times over many years and never once seen them do anything like what you suggest. I’ve never seen a media report of them doing so and it’s not been mentioned in the proposal for this law.

So unless you’ve got more information, I’m glad that you agree with me that the proposed law is unnecessary.

chewy14 12:18 pm 02 Sep 15

Grimm said :

chewy14 said :

Of course this is ALL about freedom of speech and nothing to do with “abuse” or “intimidation”. You simply don’t agree with their political opinion on abortion so you want to ban them from expressing it. If they are actively harrassing people, they should be stopped from doing so but if they are simply praying/chanting or holding signs then they are well within their rights and should be allowed to do so.

Hurling abuse at some poor woman probably already having a hard enough time with her decision, and quite likely to be in a fragile mental state is what they do, and it is absolutely abuse, harassment and intimidation. If all they did was hold signs and pray to their sky fairy, I doubt people would care so much.

Um,
have you ever seen their protests? They don’t hurl abuse at anyone, they simply say prayers.

If they were abusing people, I would agree with you.

Here_and_Now 12:07 pm 02 Sep 15

chewy14 said :

Ah, I love to see the usual supporters of protesting and freedom turn around and want to ban other people enjoying the same right to political expression that they enjoy.

Of course this is ALL about freedom of speech and nothing to do with “abuse” or “intimidation”.

No, this is not about the rightist obsession with ‘freedom of speech’.

The praying and protesting people have actively harrassed people going into the building with their business, even those who were going for abortion-unrelated reasons. (Source: people who work there and have this happen.)

chewy14 said :

You simply don’t agree with their political opinion on abortion so you want to ban them from expressing it.

A bold and not necessarily accurate assumption.

chewy14 said :

If they are actively harrassing people, they should be stopped from doing so but if they are simply praying/chanting or holding signs then they are well within their rights and should be allowed to do so.

Exactly. Well said: thanks to the active harrassment they shall be required to carry out their business elsewhere.

If this was about shutting down protest of a cause people didn’t believe in, it wouldn’t be an exclusion zone, the law would be about stopping them altogether.

Grimm 11:59 am 02 Sep 15

chewy14 said :

Of course this is ALL about freedom of speech and nothing to do with “abuse” or “intimidation”. You simply don’t agree with their political opinion on abortion so you want to ban them from expressing it. If they are actively harrassing people, they should be stopped from doing so but if they are simply praying/chanting or holding signs then they are well within their rights and should be allowed to do so.

Hurling abuse at some poor woman probably already having a hard enough time with her decision, and quite likely to be in a fragile mental state is what they do, and it is absolutely abuse, harassment and intimidation. If all they did was hold signs and pray to their sky fairy, I doubt people would care so much.

Nilrem 11:22 am 02 Sep 15

Alexandra Craig said :

These people (protestors) make me sick. It’s not freedom of speech, it’s abuse.

Where I worked in Surry Hills in Sydney meant I had to walk past one of these clinics every day. And every single time they used to stop me and carry on. It was infuriating for obvious reasons, but also – I wasn’t going in there? They knew who I was, I walked past every day. Though, maybe they were trying to covert me because I made it clear I did not support their views or their actions the first time I walked past.

I’d like to see safe zones brought in nation-wide and hefty fines for anyone who breaches the zone.

+1. These people should impose their misguided morality on their families and their friends, not young, vulnerable people who they don’t even know.

chewy14 11:18 am 02 Sep 15

Ah, I love to see the usual supporters of protesting and freedom turn around and want to ban other people enjoying the same right to political expression that they enjoy.

Of course this is ALL about freedom of speech and nothing to do with “abuse” or “intimidation”. You simply don’t agree with their political opinion on abortion so you want to ban them from expressing it. If they are actively harrassing people, they should be stopped from doing so but if they are simply praying/chanting or holding signs then they are well within their rights and should be allowed to do so.

I personally support abortion rights for pragmatic and health reasons, but these people believe that human beings are being killed, the idea that they shouldn’t be able to protest in these locations is ridiculous.

I personally don’t agree with other protest movements that happen around this city and I’d love for them to be moved on and stopped from harrassing/impeding others going about their lawful business. But because I recognise their right to protest, I would never support any legal move to remove their rights.

If you want to solve this issue, why do they have abortion clinics in the first place? Surely they could incorporate this function within the hospital(s), in which case this issue would never arise becuase the people wouldn’t have to walk past these protesters or feel intimidated?

Grimm 11:06 am 02 Sep 15

Very christian attitude they usually have as well….

Alexandra Craig 10:57 am 02 Sep 15

These people (protestors) make me sick. It’s not freedom of speech, it’s abuse.

Where I worked in Surry Hills in Sydney meant I had to walk past one of these clinics every day. And every single time they used to stop me and carry on. It was infuriating for obvious reasons, but also – I wasn’t going in there? They knew who I was, I walked past every day. Though, maybe they were trying to covert me because I made it clear I did not support their views or their actions the first time I walked past.

I’d like to see safe zones brought in nation-wide and hefty fines for anyone who breaches the zone.

Grimm 10:31 am 02 Sep 15

I used to walk past that place on Moore St pretty much every day. The idiots were fun to heckle. They don’t have much of a sense of humour.

But I agree. These people are a nuisance and should definitely be moved on. Preferably with the aid of a night stick or tazer.

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