FOR five years, a dedicated group of pro-life activists has met to protest out the front of the Tweed’s only abortion clinic, by praying and handing out pamphlets to the women walking in.
But soon their protests could be illegal.
Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi has launched a campaign to decriminalise abortion and to enact privacy zones around abortion clinics to bring NSW in line with other states.
“The lawfulness of abortion—a health matter and a medical procedure— hangs precariously on the interpretation of the law ... where the judge deemed that an abortion would be lawful under certain circumstances where it is necessary to prevent serious risk to life or mental or physical health.
“This uncertainty surrounding abortion law makes it a confusing, grey area, which places women and medical practitioners at risk of criminal liability, while also limiting access to pregnancy termination services, especially in rural areas.
“The Greens Bill would repeal Sections 82-84 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 to decriminalise abortion and enact exclusion zones around fertility control clinics to protect women and doctors from harassment as they enter and leave these premises.
“People living in regional NSW are more likely to have a view that abortion should be decriminalised (77%) and that exclusion zones should be enacted (93%),” Dr Faruqi said.
But the group of activists, loosely affiliated to various churches, said the draft Bill was an attack on free speech, as they did not threaten or intimidate users of the clinic, and they were willing to go to court to challenge the laws if necessary.
“I think safety indicates that someone is in danger and no-one is every in danger when we are praying,” a protestor said.
“We are no danger to those people, we’re giving them information that they may not otherwise see.
“There is no shouting, no plaques, and the only speaking is when somebody is approached - they are offered politely a pamphlet.”
The pamphlet discusses risks associated with abortion, such as depression, has pictures of the unborn baby, at various weeks of gestation.
There are also a range of phone numbers to 24-hour counsellors and post abortion support groups.
If the woman receiving the pamphlet is interested, a protester will pull out of their pocket a life-size foetus at ten-weeks-old.
“We are here for the girls, to let them know there is help for them if they want to keep their baby, or look at other options, like open adoption,” the protester said.
He said about 15 women had surgical abortions on Fridays, while more had chemical abortions with the RU486 tablet at the clinic on Wednesdays.
Statistics by Queensland pro-life advocates showed 25% of those women were under 19, and the situation was complicated by issues like domestic violence, sometimes experienced for the first time when women were pregnant.
Protestors said they will continue to pray in the buffer zones, if they’re enacted.
“We are not blocking or harassing people, we know the law. But, if it changes, there are those within our group that are willing to be arrested.”
Pro-life advocates said counselling by an independent staffer with no financial interest in the abortion clinic should be made mandatory.
The Bill comes as advocates last week offered a Tweed home for women in need of support during and after pregnancy.