Australia Now Fighting to Ban Abortion Clinic Protests and Vigils

Australia’s capital may be moving to ban anti-abortion protests and other speech in a buffer zone outside abortion clinics.

Shane Rattenbury, the Greens Party member of the Australia Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, has drafted laws to fight “protests and vigils” that take place outside the abortion clinic in Australia’s capital Canberra, according to ABC News in Australia.

“I’ve been approached by members of the community in the ACT who want to see this put in place so that a woman can access a legal abortion service without feeling like she has to run the gauntlet at a time in which she might already feel vulnerable in seeking the service,” Rattenbury told ABC News Australia. “In the ACT we certainly have seen a range of protests and vigils taking place outside the Territory’s recognized abortion facility.”

Rattenbury’s proposed bill would ban protesters from the sidewalks directly outside and across the street from abortion clinics in the nation’s capital and would prevent anyone from filming people who come and go from the facility, according to ABC Australia. Rattenbury said that the ban would only be in effect while the facility is open. (RELATED: Abortion Is Coming To Poland — By Drone)

“This is not an anti-protest bill, this is a bill about protecting a woman’s right to privacy when seeking a medical service,” Rattenbury said. “Limiting the ability to take photos of people accessing services is a recognition of the changing nature of protests and social media activities.”

ABC Australia notes that it is already a criminal offense to protest within 150 meters of an abortion facility in nearby Tasmania. That’s not the case in the United States. (RELATED: Georgia: Pro-Life Center Opening 10 Feet From Abortion Clinic)

Just last year, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law similar to Rattenbury’s proposed measure.

The ruling struck down a law enacted in 2007 which created 35-foot buffer zones banning protests and counseling outside the entrances to abortion clinics in the state. In response, Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., noted that laws remain to keep entrances to abortion clinics clear, according to The New York Times.

“A painted line on the sidewalk is easy to enforce, but the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a majority opinion in the case, McCullen v. Coakley, in June 2014.

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