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Anti-abortionists a ‘nuisance’

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Human rights law does not give pro-lifers the right to harass abortion clinic staff and clients, the Victorian human rights commission has argued in a court case.

The legal opinion has aided an abortion clinic in Melbourne in its legal battle against a regular group of protestors.

The group’s protests could potentially be deemed a ‘nuisance’ under the state’s public health law, and thus Melbourne City Council could be legally bound to remove the group, the Victorian human rights commission said in a written submission.

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“Protestors are not authorised to impede a person from accessing lawful, reproductive health services or to go about their lawful work,” wrote barrister Kate Eastman SC.

The commission provided the legal opinion in response to a human rights query raised during the Supreme Court case brought by The Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne.

The clinic has taken legal action in the Supreme Court to force the council to remove Helpers of God’s Precious Infants protestors from outside its office.

The group reportedly gathers outside the clinic up to six days a week, and has been accused of chasing patients to hand out pamphlets, following women as they enter and exit the clinic, and blocking car doors to stop women nearing the clinic.

In effect, a woman’s human right to have an abortion can trump the right of protest, the barrister wrote in the submission.

“[O]ne set of human rights cannot be used to nullify another person’s rights.”

The case is ongoing.

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