God’s helpers ‘encouraged’

A man prays while standing opposite the Englehardt St abortion clinic.
A man prays while standing opposite the Englehardt St abortion clinic.

THE chief of a pro-life group, that regularly protests outside Albury’s abortion clinic, believes his organisation’s actions have been supported by a court finding this week.

Paul Hanrahan, the Sydney co-ordinator of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, was responding to the unsuccessful prosecution of one of his members who had been protesting outside a Tweed Heads abortion clinic on the NSW-Queensland border.

William Laurence Burns was arrested last September after failing to comply with a move on order issued by police while campaigning outside Tweed Heads’ abortion clinic.

In February police withdrew that charge and replaced it with a charge of intimidation.

The magistrate dismissed the charges in court on Thursday due to a “fatal lack of evidence”.

Mr Hanrahan said it was found Burns had an approval notice, known as a Schedule 1, which allowed him to assemble outside the Tweed Heads abortion clinic.

“He wasn’t breaking any conditions and was doing what he said he would do on the Schedule 1,” Mr Hanrahan said.

He said the Albury protesters had similar documentation to allow them to gather outside of the Englehardt Street abortion clinic.

Mr Hanrahan said yesterday if Burns had lost the court case, it could have been used for people to argue for exclusion zones across NSW.

“Whether people agree with us or not, many women go into abortion clinics in Albury, Tweed Heads, Melbourne and Sydney who don’t want to be there,” Mr Hanrahan said.

“And the Helpers right to be there to offer support should be upheld.”

Campaigner for Helpers of God’s Precious Infants in Albury, Anna Von Marburg, said “our right to protest was reaffirmed when a magistrate in Tweed Heads ruled in favour of the protester”.

The Tweed Heads court case coincided with a hearing to remove pro-life protesters from an East Melbourne abortion clinic.

This week the Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic asked the Supreme Court to order Melbourne City Council to move along picketers from the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, the same group that protests outside the Albury Englehardt Street clinic on Thursdays.

Albury mayor Kevin Mack however did not think the hearing would set a precedent for Albury and what happened in Victorian courtrooms did not impact on NSW.

“The picture in Melbourne is different to the picture here — there are different laws for a start,” he said.

“Exclusion zones are something the state government does in special circumstances.”

Cr Mack said the issue had been ongoing for years.

“It’s up to the NSW government and something Albury MP Greg Aplin has to deal with,” he said.

Cr Mack said the community had to encourage the NSW government to act if it wanted change.