Court upholds abortion clinic safe zones
THE lawfulness of safe access zones outside abortion clinics has been upheld, after the High Court today dismissed the appeals of two anti-abortion protesters.
The High Court decision means laws in Victoria and Tasmania prohibiting ant-abortion protesting within buffer zones are valid.
The High Court had been asked to determine whether the safe access zones impinged the constitutionally implied freedom of political communication.
Safe access zones were introduced in Victoria in 2016 and in Queensland last year and create a 150 metre buffer zone outside abortion clinics, banning anti-abortion activity.
Legislation establishing the protester exclusion zones was challenged by anti-abortion activists Victorian woman Kathleen Clubb and Queenslander Graham Preston.
They argued the zones infringed their implied freedom of political communication.
Kathleen Clubb, a mother of 13, was convicted of breaching the Victorian law in 2016 and fined $5000 for handing out a pamphlet in 2016.
Mr Preston was convicted of three breaches of the Tasmanian law in 2014 and 2015 and fined $3000.
The High Court judges unanimously dismissed both appeals against decisions of magistrates and ordered Ms Clubb and Mr Preston pay costs of the appeal.
"It's a very sad day for all of Australia. The suppression of freedom of speech hurts everybody and I think it's a great loss for us all," Mr Preston said outside court.
"On the day I was arrested in Tasmania I was holding a sign that said 'Everyone has the right to life, Article 3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights'.
"And so now, it is a criminal offence to promote Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been signed by Australia.
"To hold that in a public place, you can jailed for up to a year and fined $10,000. I was fined $3000 in Tasmania for doing just that."
"I think it's a terrible decision'" Ms Clubb said.
"I'd just like to say it's not enough that so many babies have been killed but now free speech has been killed as well."
The High Court will publish its reasons.