The Australian state of New South Wales recently passed legislation banning pro-life protesters from coming within 150 meters of abortion clinics (almost 500 feet). The legislation passed with a vote of 61 to 18. The law even makes it a crime to attempt “a communication that relates to abortions, by any means.” Legislators’ overwhelming support is surprising given these draconian provisions, which the Sydney Morning Herald described as “the creation of a broad communication offense.” The penalties under the law are significant with the first offense carrying a penalty of up to six months in jail, and up to 12 months for subsequent offenses.
Many states and nations have proposed similar “buffer zone” areas around abortion clinics. Such legislation was struck down by the Supreme Court in the United States. Not only do such buffer zone laws inhibit the exercise of free speech but they also discriminate against pro-life citizens, as the buffer zones do not apply to pro-abortion activists.
One of the few Australian politicians to take a stand against the bill was Tanya Davies, the New South Wales Minister for Women. Speaking in defense of pro-life sidewalk counselors, Davies said, “They [sidewalk counselors] don’t force their views onto these women, they are offering simply another choice to these women — yet this bill will criminalise that offer.”
Indeed, the reality is that most pro-life protesters are not present to demonstrate but to offer assistance. Sidewalk counselors offer women information they won’t receive in the abortion clinic about alternatives and assistance available. More than 80% of post-abortive American women said they “were not given enough information to make an informed choice,” a shocking statistic for a society that view itself as “pro-choice.” The case in Australia is likely similar, underscoring the important role that sidewalk counselors play in helping women understand their options.
Davies faced backlash from pro-abortion politicians for her reluctance to support the anti-free speech measure. Many even questioned her fitness to serve as Minister for Women. Such reaction to Davies’ moderate position shows that the abortion lobby is not pro-choice; it is simply pro-abortion.