For two nights this week the Legislative Council has had marathon sittings lasting until 4am on Wednesday morning and 2am Friday morning in the Government’s bid to clamp down on pro-life speech or posters within 150 metres of Victorias abortion clinics. This ban extends to public and many private hospitals and all of the 100 plus doctors’ surgeries that administer the abortion drug RU 486.
The debate was dominated by a volley of questions from Coalition & DLP MP’s to Minister Jenny Mikakos regarding the Government’s intentions and the proposed operation of the exclusion zone laws.
It is alarming that the Government is refusing to provide any information to the public on where the zones will be located. Minister Mikakos made a statement that it would not be helpful for the public to know where the clinics that administer RU 486 are located. This demonstrates the uncertainty that surrounds the Bill.
It was pointed out by Inga Peulich MP that Victoria’s Universities have clinics providing RU 486 and therefore “clubs and societies” on campus would be limited in their free speech, especially during Orientation week.
Sensible amendments, designed to make a bad law better, were all defeated. The amendments sought to reduce the zone from 150 metres to 15 metres and reduce the maximum jail term for those who breach the zone, from 12 months to 1 month.
A critical amendment, by Bernie Finn MP, attempting to remove prayer and other forms of religious expression from the free speech ban was unsuccessful.
The wheels were set in motion for these speech censorship laws because the ALP Government denied its MP’s a conscience vote on the issue.
The Andrew’s ALP Government failed to honour the clear provisions in the ALP national rules, applicable since 1984, that guarantee ALP MP’s a conscience vote on abortion.
Sadly, a large number of Coalition members exercised their free vote on the issue to support the draconian laws, mistakenly accepting the false narrative that those who seek to offer alternatives to abortion at abortion clinics, cause harm. In fact, these pro-life counsellors’ compassionate activities usually result in 12 live births every year.
The mothers of these children have not regretted their choice to continue with their pregnancies. One such mother and her four year old daughter were present in Parliament during the debate; hearing that the method by which the young girl’s life was saved, a compassionate conversation, will now be an imprisonable offence.
Due to the votes of the 30 MP’s who approved this Bill, there will be twelve less children around the Christmas table next year. This is indeed a shocking outcome for a vote taken in the middle of the night. It seems unreasonable that the lives of children depend on the votes of MP’s at a time of day when making decisions is difficult.
The Government’s banning of allowing alternatives to abortion, where information is most needed, facilitates a cruel type of domestic violence, where the most vulnerable pay the ultimate price in silence.
Conservative free speech Victorians applaud the courage of the eight MPs who repeatedly voted against the jackboot of Government speech control; Bernie Finn, Inga Peulich, Richard Dalla-Riva, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, Daniel Young, Gordon Rich-Philips, James Purcell & Jeff Bourman.
While a minority group, they represented the views of the majority of correspondents to MP’s on this issue, as was acknowledged by MP’s on both sides of the debate.
This free speech ban is now likely to be tested in the High Court in the likely scenario that a compassionate pro-life advocate seeks a consensual conversation with a young mother outside of one of Victorias abortion clinics.