/Anti-abortion activists lose legal challenge to laws preventing protests outside clinics

Anti-abortion activists lose legal challenge to laws preventing protests outside clinics

Updated

April 10, 2019 11:09:30

The High Court has ruled laws in Victoria and Tasmania prohibiting anti-abortion protests near clinics are valid.

Key points:

  • Kathleen Clubb and Graham Preston say they were denied a right to freedom of political communication
  • Ms Clubb was convicted for trying to hand out a pamphlet outside a Melbourne clinic
  • Mr Preston faced charges for protesting within the 150m exclusion area in Hobart
  • High Court rules the laws about no protest zones serve a purpose

Two people prosecuted in Victoria and Tasmania told the High Court they had been denied their right to freedom of political communication.

The case involved Kathleen Clubb, who was convicted after trying to hand a pamphlet to a couple outside an east Melbourne clinic in 2016 and Graham Preston, who faced three charges for his protests in Hobart in 2014 and 2015.

Mr Preston was found to have been within the no protest zone, carrying placards reading “Every child has the right to life” and “Everyone has the right to life”.

Today the High Court dismissed the appeals, saying the laws served a legitimate purpose.

The court considered two similar cases from both states.

The pair both said they had been denied their right to freedom of political communication and the laws were unconstitutional.

But the Commonwealth told the court the case did not even get to first base, because the protestors did not have a political message.

All states and the Northern Territory also intervened in the case, pointing out that even if the implied freedom had been affected, it was outweighed by the necessity to protect women seeking a termination.

Multiple states have laws banning protestors within 150m

Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, the ACT and the NT all have similar laws banning protests within 150 meters of clinics.

New Queensland laws decriminalising abortion also set up exclusion zones.

But the issue was still being worked out in Western Australia and South Australia with parliamentary bills at various stages.

Some in the case compared the laws of the two affected states, saying the Tasmanian legislation was more thorough because it prohibited protests that could be seen or heard by within the exclusion zone.

Victoria’s law only prohibits activities likely to cause distress and anxiety to people seeking an abortion.

Topics:

courts-and-trials,

abortion,

health,

womens-health,

women,

australia,

canberra-2600,

vic,

tas,

hobart-7000,

melbourne-3000,

act

First posted

April 10, 2019 10:34:30