NSW Parliament Passes Laws Banning Anti-Abortion Protests Near Clinics

NSW Parliament has passed new laws making it illegal for anti-abortion protestors to operate within 150 metres of facilities that provide medical terminations, marking a major victory for those opposed to the proliferation of so-called ‘sidewalk counsellors’.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the laws, which were passed in the early hours of Friday morning with a final vote of 61 to 18, call for a first-time penalty of up to six months in jail for anyone found to have harassed or deliberately impeded anyone accessing a clinic.

For second-time offenders, the penalty is much more severe: those found guilty could face a full year behind bars.

In addition, the laws include a provision against displaying “communication that relates to abortions, by any means” within those zones, in an attempt to minimise any distress caused to those seeking a termination.

Opponents of the bill, including Minister for Women Tanya Davies and Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward, presented dissenting viewpoints throughout the evening.

Davies, who maintains an anti-abortion stance, spoke on the validity of ‘counsellors’ to provide an alternative view to those seeking terminations; Goward, who is pro-choice, opposed the laws over free speech concerns.

Regardless, 19 proposed amendments to the bill failed to pass muster.

NSW now joins Tasmania, Victoria, the ACT, and the NT as Australian jurisdictions with specific laws protecting the safe and unimpeded access to abortion clinics.