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Wednesday, 10 April 2019 21:05

High Court upholds abortion buffer zone laws

In an important decision on free speech issues, the High Court of Australia, in its decision in Clubb v Edwards; Preston v Avery [2019] HCA 11 (10 April 2019), has upheld the validity of laws in Victoria and Tasmania prohibiting communication about abortion within 150m of an abortion clinic. The decision may have serious implications for free speech about other issues on which religious believers have deep-seated convictions contrary to the general orthodoxy of modern Australian society.

Published in Abortion

This article is taken from the Western Australian Legal Theory Association and is reproduced here with permission. The entire document can be downloaded at the WALTA website here: Dr Joseph Turner (B Med Sc (Hons), MBBS, Ph D, FRACGP, FARGP, FACRRM and DRANZCOG (Advanced)* Debbie Garratt (BN, Grad Dip Counselling, B Ed, M Ed (La Trobe), PhD candidate (UNDA)** Dr Simon McCaffrey (MBBS (Hons Class II), MRCOG, FRACOG and FRANZCOG)*** 

The High Court will consider in October the constitutionality of Victorian and Tasmanian laws prohibiting protesting, offers of assistance and other types of communication around abortion clinics. Those supporting the laws claim that they are needed considering the significant harm that may be caused by this conduct. There are, however, substantial problems with the medical evidence provided to the High Court in support of such claims. This article critiques this evidence and highlights key questions that remain unaddressed by the expert medical opinion.

Published in Abortion

[Note: This article was updated to include a more informative screenshot from Emma Husar's Facebook page.] In the wake of the passing of another  'Safe-Access' zones bill,  a NSW MP has sanctioned the idea that violence against life advocates is acceptable. Emma Husar, Labor's member for Lindsay, made the comment in a thread on her public Facebook page. Husar - or an aide who runs her Facebook account - allowed this comment on her page: "...Anyone who gets in their faces to make a point needs a high five in the face with a brick. It's a horrible, s***** thing to do. Leave these women alone," to which Husar replied, "Agree." If Husar was referring to the end of the comment - that sidewalk advocacy is a 's*****  thing to do', then this should have been made clear. She's wrong, of course - sidewalk advocacy is a loving thing to do. It's the last hope for women who are ambivalent about their abortion, and who feel they have no choice but to go through with one. To publicly agree to a comment suggesting violence is very irresponsible for anyone - but especially for a member of parliament, in a conversation about a highly emotional topic. Members of the pro-life community are no strangers to false accusations, violent threats and even actual violence being perpetrated against them. It is only a few years ago that an elderly man was violently attacked outside an abortion facility in Albury, NSW. Yet, during the debate, parliamentarians continued the false narrative that pro-lifers engage in bullying tactics to 'shame women' and 'shove their ideas onto others.'

Conservative MPs Fail Mothers and Babies

New South Wales voted last week to join Tasmania, Victoria, the Northern Territory and the ACT in setting up, what is in effect, a censorship law designed to stop pro-lifers from offering help to vulnerable women. This outcome was particularly disappointing for conservative voters who have long held confidence in the Nationals to maintain Christian values. National MP Trevor Kahn betrayed his conservative, pro-life base to co-sponsor the bill with the rabidly pro-abortion Penny Sharpe. Many Liberal MPs, also ostensibly conservative voted in favour of the bill. NSW Premer, Gladys Berejiklian, who had previously described the law as 'flawed', gave her party a conscience vote - this was denied to the Labor Party - but voted in favour of the bill. All 19 amendments to the bill were rejected. The final vote was 61 to 18. and the MPs who stood for life - a counter-cultural stance in Australia's contemporary climate - were like a shining light in that dark, dim place. The pro-life speeches were very good, with Minister for Women, Tanya Davies, defending sidewalk advocacy and reaffirming the fact that pro-lifers are in no way confrontational or intimidating. Liberal MP Dominic Perrottet, gave a particularly good speech which can be found in full at his website:

  .... It is fundamentally a crude attempt to sanitise our public places To silence those who refuse to turn a blind eye to the value of both mother and child. And to remove from our public spaces any trace of the witness that is a daily reminder of the dignity of every human life. Speaker, it is no surprise the collectivists opposite have a binding party position on this issue. Their ideology is rooted in the very idea of trampling freedom, denying agency and erasing individual rights in favour of the state. What a damning indictment it is that a party which cannot even offer its own members internal freedom is now in the business of denying the freedoms to others.

David and Goliath

The High Court challenge to exclusion-zones, which is already underway, initially involved the Attorneys-General of both Tasmania and Victoria, since the law was violated by the appellants in both of those states. Both cases are being heard together since the law is very similar in these states, as distinct from the bubble-zone law in the ACT, which has its own features. [See more about a recent ACT case here.] However, a more recent development is the intervention from the Attorneys-General of other Australian states: New South Wales, Queensland, WA and SA as well as the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth have all made submissions to the High Court regarding our case. [Progress of the submissions can be followed here.] Michael Quinlan, dean of Sydney's Notre Dame University, explains that states without exclusion-zones won't be able to automatically introduce them if the High Court challenge is unsuccessful and that states with similar legislation would have to remove existing exclusion-zones - and redraft them -  if the challenge is successful:

Various State AGs getting involved in the Clubb/Preston case is disappointing but it’s not unusual. In constitutional cases, states have a right to appear in the High Court. The state may see this case as a state’s rights issue. If the High Court finds the legislation unconstitutional it probably impacts on other state laws; it stops a state from choosing to pass laws which restrict free speech and probably not just around clinics. If Clubb and Preston lose, a state without exclusion zones would need to prepare and pass a bill in the usual way. If the present Tasmanian or Victorian legislation is read down, such a state will have details about how to draft a constitutional bill, which will be in the written judgment in the way it reads down the existing laws.

Life Advocacy Has a Long History of Success

Exclusion-zone laws protect abortion businesses and allow them to continue to slaughter the innocent while traumatising women and men for life. The laws have been introduced despite the embarrassingly meagre evidence of harassment and intimidation which is alleged to have been perpetrated by the pro-life community. And it is also despite the overwhelming evidence to support the effectiveness of pro-life outreach. Abortion advocates consistently disregard this evidence. Living, breathing babies, children (and now some adults) are the proof! These are the children whose mothers accepted help outside Australian abortion facilities. This can only happen when life advocates are allowed to peacefully witness, pray and offer help to these women in their time of need. The process is underway to gather totals from around Australia, but some of the numbers already available are:

  • 600 women helped, and babies saved in Sydney;
  • 20 mothers helped and babies saved at Croydon, Victoria,
  • 300 mothers helped and babies saved at East Melbourne.
  • 24 mothers helped and babies saved at Albury, NSW.

  The pictures below say a thousand words about life advocacy: [from left] Paul Hanrahan with one of the Sydney babies; Kathy with one of the Croydon babies; Anna von Marburg with one of the Albury babies. But, due to the climate of hostility against the pro-life community, due to misrepresentation and outright lies, these numbers will dwindle. And politicians like Emma Husar, not content with condoning Australia's worst human rights abuse, simply highlight the truth about the abortion industry's violent secrets. 

Published in Freedom of Speech

In a Federation like Australia, different jurisdictions (States and Territories) may have different rules on what amounts to “discrimination” or “vilification”, and how those things interact with religious freedom. One of the pressing issues here in recent years has been whether there will be a “race to the bottom” in freedom of speech on religious issues, with one jurisdiction in particular, Tasmania, raising deep concerns with a very broad prohibition on causing “offence” related to matters such as sexual orientation. Today the High Court of Australia, on appeal from NSW, has affirmed the decision of the NSW Court of Appeal that State and Territory “tribunals” (non-judicial panels usually used in discrimination issues) have no jurisdiction to impose penalties on residents of other Australian jurisdictions under their own local laws.