Australian pro-lifers lose challenge to abortion clinic buffer zones

Catholic News Agency | 1/27/2017 | Staff
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Canberra, Australia, Apr 10, 2019 / 04:03 pm (CNA).- Australia's high court on Wednesday threw out cases brought by pro-life activists challenging “buffer zone” laws in Victoria and Tasmania that bar any protests within 150 meters (nearly 500 feet) of a clinic or hospital that performs abortions.

In its April 10 decision, the court said that “given that the proscription leaves protesters free to conduct protests in relation to terminations outside the access zone, and that there is no evidence or other reason to accept that political protest against terminations outside the access zone is any less effective as a tool of political persuasion than protest within”, the buffer zones' effect on political freedom was “negligible”.

Case - Kathleen - Clubb - Campaigner - Abortion

The Victorian case was brought by Kathleen Clubb, a pro-life campaigner who was fined $5,000 in 2016 for “communicating about abortion” to a woman using an abortion clinic. The same year, Graham Preston was fined $3,000 for violating Tasmania’s similar buffer zone law.

Both plaintiffs argued that the laws violate their freedom of speech, since they prohibit political speech in a place where “communications on [abortion] are likely to occur and be most politically resonant.”

Clubb - Prohibition - Irrespective - Significance - Communication

Clubb has said that “the prohibition applies whether or not discomfort is caused, and irrespective of the political significance of the communication in the circumstances” and that the appeal asked “whether a prohibition of that kind is compatible with a constitution which protects a freedom of political communication.”

Their lawyers had argued that because there are already laws in both states that protect against harassment and intimidation, the only further effect of the buffer zone laws is essentially to ban peaceful protest, and that Australia grants an implied freedom to political speech.

Court - Freedom - Argument - Part - Freedom

The court responded to the “implied freedom” argument saying that “it is no part of the implied freedom to...
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