Bishop’s support for abortion protesters


THE Catholic Church’s most senior local figure has weighed into the campaign to end protests outside an Albury abortion clinic.

Bishop of Wagga Gerard Hanna has sided with protesters on the condition they didn’t break any laws.

He said yesterday he was unaware of any evidence of unlawful actions or intimidatory behaviour by protesters towards people attending the clinic as suggested by those leading the campaign, including Dr Pieter Mourik.

The bishop’s comments come after a public forum at St Matthew’s Anglican Church on Tuesday night which attracted about 100 people.

“It is still within the law in a peaceful and non-harassing way to be present and offer any person going there one final time to talk about their decision and understand what other options are available,” Bishop Hanna said.

“Sometimes these matters haven’t been addressed and they may well regret their action at a later date.

“Their idea is to be there in a peaceful way and observing the laws.

“Occasionally someone going to the abortion clinic will stop and talk to them.

“More often than not that is helpful, even if they continue with their original decision.”

Forum convenor Dr Mourik and his supporters, including Dr Rebecca McGowan and local women’s health chief Susie Reid, are lobbying Albury Council to change its by-laws to stop the weekly protests from members of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants which take place outside the Englehardt Street clinic.

But those plans have been scuttled by the council, which has declared the state government was better positioned to legislate for exclusion zones.

There are no immediate plans to have the matter raised at a council meeting as hoped by Dr Mourik.

Bishop Hanna said protesters felt the need to maintain the vigil outside the clinic.

“They are serving a purpose, but they are not harassing anybody,” he said.

“They are not blocking the way or blocking the carriage of people using the footpath.

“The council ranger has monitored them from time to time and where it was necessary to correct them he did so.”

The council’s street and outdoor activities policy, which is under pressure to be changed, doesn’t allow for the establishment of exclusion zones around selected properties.