The City of Melbourne says new ‘move on’ laws will help it deal with anti-abortion protesters, as the council faces legal action for failing to stop their harassment of patients.
The Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne says patients have been intimidated by protesters for decades, called murderers and whores and told they were going to hell as they tried to enter the clinic.
It is taking Supreme Court action against the City of Melbourne for failing to enforce laws that could stop the protests.
Susie Allanson, a psychologist at the clinic, said she has seen patients arrive shaking and in tears.
“We consider this not to be protest, we consider this to be chronic bullying and intimidation,” Dr Allanson said on Wednesday.
That’s why I’m delighted these move-on laws will apply to these protesters.
Lawyer Elizabeth O’Shea said the council has shirked its responsibility and failed to take the problem seriously.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said City of Melbourne officers visited the clinic twice a week, but protesters were difficult to prosecute because they understood “how to play the game”.
He said the move-on laws could be used against the anti-abortion protesters.
“Until the premier has put these laws in, they have been able to game the system,” he said.
“That’s why I’m delighted these move-on laws will apply to these protesters.”
Ms O’Shea said move-on powers already exist and have not been used against anti-abortion protesters in the past.
“I would be surprised if the move-on powers were ever used on protesters out the front of the clinic,” she said.
Tanya O’Brien, a spokeswoman for Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, said the group may seek to appear in the court proceeding as a friend of the court.
“We would certainly like to challenge the lies that the clinic bring up in that court case,” she told Fairfax Radio.
Ms O’Brien denied the group harasses people.
“We aren’t there to fight, we are there to reach out in help,” she said.