An Albury Councillor labelled a plan to restrict protesters outside an Englehardt fertility clinic “totalitarianism” and reminiscent of “something you’d see in North Korea”, but pro-exclusion zone campaigners believe even peaceful protests are abuse.
Councillor Darren Cameron said removing protesters from the public street outside Fertility Control Clinic Albury would also restrict peaceful prayer.
“The legal advice is useless as it’s predicated on a false premise that people are being harassed, not true,” he said.
“That people are being told they’re going to hell, not true, and that they’re being told they’re murdering, not true.”
Albury grandmother and pro-exclusion zone campaigner Liz Marmo said women were being harassed outside the abortion clinic and even if protesters were peaceful, their presence was intimidation.
“I’ve had women tell me it feels like a form of mental abuse,” she said.
“We see how distraught women walking into the clinic seeing the protesters.
“It will be interesting on Monday night to see how many councillors believe women should be able to access a legal medical clinic without harassment or intimidation.”
Ms Marmo said she was ecstatic someone in council had finally listened to the community.
“I was over the moon,” she said.
“No one is denying the group’s right to protest, no one is denying their right to free speech. They can be as ‘peaceful’ as they like from 150 metres away.
“Most of the community believe they should not be loitering around the street watching people going to the psychologist, the dentist, private residents and a legal, medical clinic.”
Cr Cameron does not believe harassment occurs outside the clinic and said it was “outrageous” local government was being asked to act on a state issue.
“It’s bound to fail even if it goes ahead and who will foot the bill for this folly? Who will foot the bill for the Greens’ ideological position? The ratepayers, the mums and dads, the working families of Albury,” he said.
Cr Cameron said if the proposal passes Albury council would be the “first and probably only” council in Australia “dumb enough” to ban prayer in public.