Back door way to avoid anti-abortion protesters

THE member for Albury believes the right to freedom of speech would be threatened if a protest exclusion zone was set up at the Englehardt Street abortion clinic.

Greg Aplin yesterday raised his concerns about the need for free speech to be respected after meeting with Rights to Privacy Albury, a group which has been lobbying for restrictions on protesters.

“Just because a certain amount of people want something it shouldn’t over-ride freedom of speech,” Mr Aplin said.

Rights to Privacy spokesman Pieter Mourik, who collected 5500 signatures for a petition to Albury Council which called for action against protests, said his group was not against free speech.

“He’s welcome to his view, but as the local representative, his job is to represent the majority,” Dr Mourik said.

“We totally respect freedom of speech.

“We want freedom from the harassment and intimidation.”

Dr Mourik said his group had not decided whether signatures would be collected for a new petition to be presented to the NSW Parliament.

He and Mr Aplin both declined to elaborate about details of their meeting.

Mr Aplin did say he had recommended “a course of action” to the group.

He said he still believed the issue was a law and order matter, but would take it to the relevant minister if it was formally referred to him.

Mr Aplin said he had yet to hear any solutions from either side.

This included how to maintain the protesters’ right to freedom of speech if a zone was to be established.

“I’m just hoping to come to a satisfactory solution,” Mr Aplin said.

Dr Mourik said most of Albury supported an exclusion zone.

His group has also met this week with Albury police Superintendent Beth Stirton.

She was not available to comment, but Dr Mourik said she clarified the police were unable to do anything under the current law.

He said she recommended women use the clinic’s back entrance and to write a formal complaint to the police if they had been harassed by the protesters in the past five years.