Laws took effect in Victoria in 2015 that made it illegal for anti-abortionists to protest within 150 metres of health and fertility clinics. The “safe access zone” laws were intended to protect health workers and their patients from being confronted and intimidated by protesters while seeking medical advice or getting medical treatment, including abortion.
But the high court is to hear a case challenging the validity of the safe access zone laws in Victoria as well as Tasmania. The Victorian case has been brought by anti-abortionist Kathleen Clubb, who was the first person to be convicted of breaking Victoria’s safe access zone laws in 2016. She was fined $5,000 for communicating about abortion to a person attending the clinic in a manner “reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety”.
In its submission to the high court this month, the Victorian government warned that without safe access zones, some women who needed abortion services would decide “to delay or not to seek those services at all”. Submissions in the Victorian case close in June and in the Tasmanian case in August.
[ed: Meanwhile Penny Sharpe’s Bill for safe access zones in NSW
passed on Thursday!]