Reaction from Albury figures to abortion clinic protest ban

Heartbroken: Anna von Marburg and her husband Roland at an Albury Council meeting last December which discussed a municipal exclusion zone at the city's abortion clinic. Mrs von Marburg is devastated at the state applying the same measure.
Heartbroken: Anna von Marburg and her husband Roland at an Albury Council meeting last December which discussed a municipal exclusion zone at the city's abortion clinic. Mrs von Marburg is devastated at the state applying the same measure.

THE leader of anti-abortion protests in Albury has hinted her group will not hold a vigil beyond a new 150-metre exclusion zone.

Reacting to NSW legalising safe access areas, which stop protests at abortion clinics, Anna von Marburg said it would not be as effective to gather outside the immediate vicinity of the Englehardt Street rooms.

“If you’re not right near the clinic, where the girls are going in, then there’s not really any point to go somewhere else,” Mrs von Marburg said.

“When you’re going in, you’re going for that reason (to have an abortion) and it’s your last chance to help.”

Albury mayor Kevin Mack welcomed the new law, saying he believed the community would appreciate a resolution to the situation.

“People are just over it and they’ve been waiting for the state to do something about it,” Cr Mack said.

“It’s one of those areas that’s very sensitive and it’s sent a message across the state that we need to observe people’s privacy.

“There are places for protest, but some places are off limits.”

Cr Mack believes the new law will be easy to police.

“It’s pretty black and white,” he said.

“I don’t think the people that were protesting outside the clinic are not law abiding people, they will understand that that is the way it is and modify their behaviour accordingly.”

Mrs von Marburg has spent eight years undertaking vigils at the Englehardt Street clinic.

“I’m proud of my friends and what we’ve done and put up with, we’ve endured some awful stuff from the pro-abortion supporters and some cruel stuff,” she said.

“It’s a victory that we stayed there until the end, until they had to invent this wacky law which will be overturned in the end.

“It’s not safe for the baby or the mother harmed by the abortion, it’s there to exclude one voice.”

Mrs von Marburg also labelled the safe access law “draconian” and “Orwellian” in not allowing abortion to be mentioned with 150 metres of where terminations were occurring.

Milestone day: Liz Marmo on the verandah of Albury's abortion clinic. She is overjoyed that protesters will not be allowed within 150 metres of fertility centres in NSW.

Milestone day: Liz Marmo on the verandah of Albury's abortion clinic. She is overjoyed that protesters will not be allowed within 150 metres of fertility centres in NSW.

In contrast, Rights to Privacy Albury leader Liz Marmo is delighted with the new law, saying generations of women will benefit.

“I’ve got six granddaughters and statistics say two of my granddaughters during their reproductive life will have to access a reproductive clinic like the one in Englehardt Street,” she said.

“To know my granddaughters can go to a reproductive clinic without unwanted familiarity is just awesome.

“This day will go down in history as the day when women in NSW have finally been respected.”

Ms Marmo said other activists pushing for access zones had walked away and there had been “unacceptable behaviour”, including by herself, but she “couldn’t let go”.

“I believe everybody, male and female, have the right to enter clinics without unwanted familiarity,” Ms Marmo said.

Albury deputy mayor Amanda Cohn said she was thrilled to learn the parliament had approved safe zones in the early hours of Friday.

“I woke up with a great sense of relief and justice that the women of NSW will be finally able to access their appointments with privacy and without interference,” Cr Cohn said.

The proposed exclusion zone.

The proposed exclusion zone.

“It’s really a tremendous achievement for every activist along the way and there’s been a huge number of people who have rung their MP and put it on the agenda.”

In his speech to parliament on Thursday night, Albury MLA Greg Aplin noted that over the past two years police had only received four incident reports in relation to the clinic, one from a security guard and three from protesters.

“The police determination was that no offences had been committed,” Mr Aplin said.

Cr Cohn said that may be the case but in advocating for change she had spoken to numerous women that reported negative experiences at the clinic.

Mr Aplin hopes the application of an exclusion zone will “put an end to public animosity”. 

“I ask the people of Albury to show kindness and understanding to one another,” he said.

Start of zones needs to be swift: MP

A DRIVER for NSW’s new exclusion zone law wants the protest-free precincts to be operable as soon as possible.

Labor Party Upper House member Penny Sharpe, who co-sponsored the bill which passed parliament early yesterday, wants the 150 metre safe access areas to emerge promptly.

“Today at clinics around NSW there are people standing out the front doing things that parliament has just said they shouldn’t, they’re confronting women, jostling them and in some cases taking their photo,” she said.

“So the sooner the laws are in place, the sooner the behaviour stops."

A NSW Health department spokeswoman said the approval of the state governor was needed before the new law was adopted.

“The zones will be put into practice once the Bill commences on assent, which is expected to occur within the next two weeks,” she said.

In Victoria, the zones were legalised in November 2015, but did not formally commence until the following May.

Ms Sharpe said it should not take as long to inaugurate the zones in NSW.

The MLC applauded Albury MLA Greg Aplin for supporting her bill, which passed the Lower House 61-18.

“Greg Aplin has been aware of the issue for a long time, but in the end he strongly backed the women in Albury and gave a terrific speech,” Ms Sharpe said. 

Mr Aplin, who told parliament it was time for pro-life supporters to move on from vigils, also won praise for his oration from the independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich.

“It was one of the most compassionate, reasonable, measured and representative speeches that I have heard in this chamber,” he told the Legislative Assembly.

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