Three people were arrested in Hobart, Tasmania, for protesting the state’s abortion-provider exclusion-zone laws. Two were later released, but my friend, Graham was strip-searched and held in custody for four hours! You can read Graham’s report below. And please sign the Change.Org petition which has been organised by a group of prolife people in the ACT, where similar laws are being suggested. That makes four new states where abortion advocates are calling for the laws – laws that protect abortion providers, but not our preborn babies.
It was quite a day today in Hobart. I arrived outside the abortion “clinic” at 7.45 and who should show up about ten minutes later but the shouting lady. As she came rushing up from behind me she said, I’ve got 15 minutes before I have to catch my bus, and then proceeded to stand spreadeagled directly in front of me using a scarf to try and stop people seeing the signs.
She wasn’t shouting though which was good and I said to her, so I see you are still opposed to free speech. She said she was not against free speech, just against people telling lies – she claimed that the 8-week-old baby in the photo I was holding was just a “zygote”. She needs to check her facts however as the zygote stage is just the brief very first period of fertilisation after the sperm has penetrated the egg.
During all of this Penny and her husband Ray, the two local supporters (from Geeveston, about an hour south of Hobart), who had contacted me and were prepared to risk arrest, arrived. Penny was born with a condition that means she is a very tiny lady but as I found out, that certainly doesn’t deter her! Penny stood between Ray and I holding the baby photo with her head just poking over the top. The opposition soon left and we had a couple of people stop and give some words of encouragement which was good.
About 8.20 a tv cameraman arrived and soon after the first police car pulled up. A policewoman asked us if we realised we were within 200m of an abortion clinic (200m?!) and were we going to move away? We said we were not going to move and she and her partner went back to the car. Then another couple of cars arrived and there was much discussion amongst them. A policeman went into the clinic and then came out to us and said that the clinic hours were 9.00am to 5.00pm and we could not be there during those hours. If we didn’t go then we would be arrested. Again we said we would not be leaving.
Police cars came and went and there was much more discussion. Then at about 9.15 a group of about six police, including a senior officer, walked up to us. We were again told that we were within the 150m exclusion zone and we would be arrested if we did not leave immediately. I said, how could we be arrested for promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Are you saying that Article 3, ‘Everyone has the right to life’ is an anti-abortion statement? and the policeman said, Yes. I said, Good, I will be glad to hear you say that in court. He then said that we were all under arrest and that we were to go to the police cars. At that point, I wished we had someone taking photos for us. Penny, whose eyesight is not good and who has some difficulty walking stopped at the gutter before stepping into the road. Ray was holding one hand but she asked if someone could hold her other hand. The senior policeman was standing next to her so her took her hand as she crossed the road. It would have made a great picture.
We were taken separately to the main police station and I did not see the others again. Penny and Ray were processed quite quickly and were allowed to leave. I was locked in a semi-underground caged holding cell for an hour. Then I was taken inside and told that I had two outstanding charges against me as well as the charge arising from today. I replied that I did not have any such charges but they said I did and showed me the charge sheet. Rather incredibly two charges had been laid against me for when I was outside the “clinic” on September 5 and 8 last year. (This was after the police offered no evidence against me at the trial on September 4.) I was not told at the time I was being charged and nothing was ever sent to me to say I had been charged! Apparently the hearing for this was supposed to have been held in March but since I hadn’t heard about it I naturally hadn’t shown up!
Anyway, the police say I now know about the charges so I am still facing them. Incredible. So I was told I was going to be held until I went before a magistrate to see if I would be given bail. I was taken off, strip searched and held in a cell for four hours. I then got to see a duty solicitor. She said that the police were willing to give me bail on two conditions – one that I not go back within 150m of the place until after the hearing and two, that I agree with a residency requirement – that is that I agree to reside at the place where I am now staying in Hobart until the hearing as I am considered a flight risk due to not showing up for the hearing in March!!
If I didn’t agree to those terms I would be held in custody until the hearing. That was a bit of a shock – as nice as Tasmania is, I’m not too keen on staying here for months and overstaying the hospitality I’ve been given! So I managed to do some fast talking and the duty solicitor said she would go back to the prosecutor but she didn’t like my chances. Thankfully however the prosecutor had some good sense and I was granted bail and I can now stay either at this address or my home address in Brisbane.
So I got out about 4.00pm to be confronted by a couple of reporters and camera crews. I did an interview but as far as we can tell it has not been aired. I then contacted Penny and Ray. Unfortunately we have been given different dates to appear in court to give our pleas – theirs is May 25 and mine is June 17. I presume they will require me to be there because of the mess-up. We’ll have to try and get our court appearances on together. We still have not got the lawyer situation sorted out – a different QC has indicated interest, which is really good, so I will have to get in touch with him. We are still needing a solicitor which is really important.
Just last week I received a call from the Right to Life group in the ACT to tell me that there are plans for a 150m bubble zone to be introduced there around places where abortions are done. So, just as we expected, this law is likely to spread and thus it makes it all the more important that this law is challenged as soon as possible. Please sign this petition which has been organised by the ACT group.
I’m planning to stay on in Tasmania until Monday evening when I have booked to fly back to Brisbane. Over the next few days I will go to places around Hobart (but not within 150m of the abortion “clinic”!) to try and keep the issue alive. We’ll see what happens.
Thanks for praying.