Free speech against abortion hasn’t got a prayer

Free speech against abortion hasn’t got a prayer. Angela Shanahan exposes the simple hypocrisy of the left and its right to dissent.

When is free speech and peaceful protest in a free society against the law? Apparently only when it is about, abortion. In Tasmania, Victoria and the ACT, exclusion zones have been put in place to prevent any anti-abortion demonstration, and in NSW the Greens are advocating similar zones.

If you think these protestors were holding up dismembered and blood covered baby dolls, or graphic images, like other protestors like to do, think again.

On Wednesday, Graham Preston was the latest person to be fined for such a protest. Preston was arrested in Hobart in April last year for standing peacefully near an abortion clinic, holding a sign saying: “Everyone has the right to life, Article 3 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The back said: “Every child has the right to life, Article 6 Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Another sign held by someone else showed an unborn child eight weeks from conception. Preston was fined $3000.

What a terrifying public spectacle. But wait, it gets worse. That was in Hobart. Just look at what those crazed Christian fundamentalists got up to in the ACT.

Kerry Mellor is part of a group that has been assembling to pray outside 1 Moore Street every Friday for 18 years. In the past they had a sign that said “pray to end abortion”, some “choose life” signs and holy pictures. They were essentially religious protests and didn’t have any material to give out. Most people wanting abortion went in the side door. A few people looked askance or spat at the group, and sometimes people joined in the prayers. But there was never any great confrontation. The group became a sort of Canberra institution, “the people outside the abortion clinic”.

After the exclusion zone around the ACT abortion clinic run by Marie Stopes International was put into place in March, Mellor was fined $750, in April. However, he was able to contest and it was withdrawn because he wasn’t in the exclusion zone but on an opposite corner. So then the ACT government changed the zone.

The zone now includes most of the street and a good portion of other streets to make it difficult for anyone to see any of the group.

However, recently on Friday morning, Mellor was within the zone accompanied by others. There were six police and three vehicles including a paddy wagon. Other members of the group moved on. Mellor claims, “I was alone … I prayed silently, the sergeant greeted me and asked me did I know I was within the protected area. Was I aware I was engaged in prohibited behaviour? I replied that prayer is not prohibited. He said it was in that area.”

Mellor continued to pray silently with his hands in his pockets. He didn’t display his rosary but they continued to ask what he was doing. Mellor asked what was the evidence of protest. Then, according to Mellor, the policeman said he saw him “bow his head and make sign of the cross” and this was evidence of his offence of protest in protected area. Prayer was the defining element of the offence. Mellor has been issued a criminal infringement notice. He does not intend to pay a fine because he feels his religious liberty, his right to peaceful silent religious expression, is being infringed. He says the only way to resolve this is in a court.

“Prayer was the defining element of the offence”.  What I find amazing is how brittle and thin-skinned our brave cultural victors are (the left has won the culture war, right Mike?) when faced merely with the image of a bowed head and a silent signing of the cross.

What does it matter if he prays, if you don’t believe in his god or his moral convictions? You won the war, you are a free secular state that bows to no god. He is one man, standing on a street corner, thinking silent thoughts.

What right have you to tell him what to think, and where to think it? If you are comfortable with your actions, your legality and your morality, why are you offended by his silent presence in our public square?

You do not have to share Right to Life’s view about abortion to be concerned about this dangerous development.

Indeed. But those who do share this view must take heed. Merely holding these views is dangerous to your legal status, security, employment and social standing.   It has become civil disobedience merely to think the wrong thoughts in a public place.