Graham Preston is legendary in Australia for his activism outside abortion mills aimed at saving babies from being murdered, and which is based on Proverbs 24:11 “Rescue those being led away to death.”
During twelve years of direct action, Graham has been imprisoned for a total of 18 months, on six separate charges, with one stretch of eight months.He has lost count of the number of times he has been arrested standing up for the rights of the unborn.
Earlier this year, Graham came to Tasmania to test the newly-enacted Tasmanian Reproductive Health Act. This hideous law made abortion legal through all 9 months of pregnancy, for virtually any reason – including the risk of financial, social, mental or physical harm to a pregnant mother. Under the act, doctors were forbidden to exercise their conscientious objection to abortion and were forced to refer patients who requested an abortion to an abortion provider or agency. A 150 metre exclusion zone was also introduced, which meant that any form of prolife activity, such as sidewalk counselling or prayer vigils near abortion centres was prohibited.
Graham was arrested twice in Hobart for standing outside the city’s two abortion providers with signs quoting the UN Declaration on Human Rights and a large picture of an unborn child at eight weeks’ gestation. After refusing to move along at both locations, he was arrested, but the charges were dropped a few days before the hearing. Graham has never been charged under the Tasmanian Reproductive Health Act 2013, but only under the police’s general ‘move-along’ powers.
SInce those charged were dropped, Graham, along with two friends and myself, have peacefully promoted the rights of the unborn child within the exclusion zone. The police initially gave permission for us to remain outside the abortion centre, but are apparently in the process of reviewing Graham’s case. It would appear that the police are under a lot of pressure from abortion advocates to enforce the buffer-zone law, and it remains to be seen whether or not future peaceful protests will be permitted.
After his court appearance last week, I had an informal interview with Graham, to hear more about his work.
Graham said that his greatest support came from his prayer-team, many of whom were on his email list and received regular updates about his activity. His family is also very supportive and have made many sacrifices over the years, and by God’s Providence, have been largely protected by any negative reactions to Graham’s stints in prison.
We spoke about the fact that not everyone can or wants to be involved in direct action and therefore risk arrest in their pro-life work. I asked Graham what he would like to say to people in the pro-life movement who fall into this category?
Graham: What I would like to see is one family supported by every church, so that one member can be involved in direct action outside abortion centres, and the family can be provided for in the event of an arrest.
We need to come to terms with our FEAR.
We need to trust God to enable us to cope with anything that happens.
Being in prison is a scary prospect, and there are no guarantees that nothing bad will happen there.
But the phrase, “DO NOT BE AFRAID” is mentioned many times in the Bible.
People seem to have the attitude that you have to wait until you don’t feel fear, before you act.
But we need to act regardless of fear; we have to do what we have to do, regardless of the fact that we’re trembling.
We have to do what’s right.
We went on to talk about the 150 metre exclusion zones that were recently established in Tasmania under the new act. They state that no protester is able to be seen or heard within the zone, intimidating, harassing or obstructing a woman entering or leaving an abortion centre.
Graham: A law such as that in Tasmania should lead everyone to ask the question, ‘Why does protest cause intimidation?’ If abortion is just an ordinary medical procedure, then it shouldn’t be a big deal. Women shouldn’t feel vulnerable or intimidated, and a protest shouldn’t cause them anxiety. If someone were to protest at a dentist’s against having dental work, he would be ignored and laughed at. But if people are upset by protests against abortion, that means they are really aware of what abortion is.When ordinary people see that prolifers appear to take seriously the fact that abortion really takes the life of a child, then the public will take notice.