Sunday, July 01, 2018

Australia: Kathleen Clubb defends right to challenge abortion

Clubb, who last year became the first person to be convicted under abortion protest laws in Victoria, will play in what may become one of the most important free speech cases heard by the High Court.

She wants Australians to know that it’s not about abortion. It’s about the right to protest.

Clubb can anticipate all your questions: yes, she is opposed to abortion in cases of rape; yes, in the case of profound disability; yes, in the case of incest.

She also believes that Australians have been denied a national debate about abortion.

“In some states, it’s now legal all through nine months for any reason, and we have not had a debate about that,” she says — and plenty of readers will no doubt think: good.

Those people who stand outside abortion clinics with gory signs and, in some cases, with blood-splattered dolls in prams, they’re pests — and also, it’s none of their business.

Clubb says she has never done that. She prays and she offers pamphlets.

“But the point is, if parliament can ban this kind of protest, what other kind of protests can they ban?” she says. “I am fighting for all Australians.”

Legislation creating 150m “safe zones” around the Victorian clinics came into effect on May 2, 2016. This was always going to be a problem for Christian groups that hold their vigils outside the doors.

Court documents show that Inspector Gerard Cartwright of Victoria Police met a group he called “the Helpers” (the full name is Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, and Clubb is a member) several times in an effort to impress on them the importance of the law, telling the court: “These were law-abiding people and I did not want them coming before the courts.” He asked them to steer clear of the 150m zone. In July, “the Helpers” contacted him to let him know that “a man in his 70s and a woman in her 50s” would breach the zone on August 4, 2016, outside the Fertility Control Clinic in Wellington Parade, East Melbourne.

Twenty officers were briefed to attend, “to ensure calm”.

Clubb says she had a friend drop her off near the clinic. En route to the safe zone, she saw two detectives at a nearby cafe and stopped to say hello. As arrests go, it was all very civilised. She walked into the exclusion zone. Video of the event, shown to the court, shows her attempting to engage a couple as they approach the clinic, by speaking to them and handing over a pamphlet. The male of the couple declines the offer and the young woman moves away.

A police officer steps up and tells Clubb she is breaking the law. Was she prepared to leave? She was not.

From there on, events felt to Clubb like something from NYPD Blue. She was not cuffed but put in the back seat of a squad car. She had a mugshot taken at the station, which her delighted kids are now trying to get her to use as her Facebook profile picture.

There was a confusing moment in the cop shop bathroom: everything was stainless steel and she couldn’t find a tap, just a button to press to wash her hands. She had to hand over personal items but was allowed to keep her rosary beads, although one officer said: “Don’t harm yourself with them.”

“They weren’t jovial,” she says, thinking back. “More businesslike.”

It took some time for the case to make its way to the Magistrates Court but ultimately, on October 11 last year, with magistrate Luisa Bazzani presiding, Clubb was told she had been charged with breaching section 185D of Victoria’s Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008; that she had insisted on “communicating about abortions” within a safe access zone in a manner “reasonably likely to cause anxiety or distress”; and that she had done so despite two warnings, “defiantly and deliberately”.

Of course she had. That was always the point.

Clubb’s legal team appealed her conviction to the Supreme Court of Victoria, with grounds one and two concerning the constitutional validity of the law in question. A short time later, Victoria’s Attorney-General Martin Pakula also applied to have the case transferred to the High Court, which is due to hear the matter later this year.


1 comment:

Spurwing Plover the fighting shorebird said...

Just shows the total intollerence of the liberal left to shout down conservatives all the time