Obscene and Not Heard
Michelle Fraser’s Trial: *warning - this post contains graphic images of abortion victims*
My friend, Michelle Fraser, recently appeared in court to appeal the charge made against her of holding two graphic images outside the East Melbourne abortion facility over two years ago. Regardless of what you may think about the use of graphic images in this location, or any other, this is an important test-case for our implied freedom of political communication.
Michelle was charged under The Summary Offences Act of 1966 (Sect 17 1 b) for ‘displaying an indecent or obscene figure in a public place.’
If her appeal is lost, then it will potentially be illegal for such images to be shown in any public place, including libraries, schools and universities: a lecturer instructing his students about abortion procedures would be in violation of the law. Perhaps abortion will no longer be taught at med school? I somehow doubt that.
Like many other cases involving fundamental freedoms, Michelle’s case rests around the definition of a word: in this case, the word is ‘obscene’.
Michelle’s lawyer argued that what is regarded as ‘obscene’ in contemporary Australia is always related to something sexual, such as pornography or indecent exposure. One section of the act makes the distinction between ‘indecent’ and obscene’, and determines that things deemed obscene ‘deprave and corrupt those open to immoral influences.’
Now that sounds like a government-funded sex-education programme or your average music-video. Or what about Sexpo? (Caution: I’ve included a link, but this website is explicit and what I would call obscene. I couldn’t bring myself to post a sample picture here on my site.)
That travelling side-show surely ticks all the boxes as something to ‘deprave and corrupt’! Here are some of the topics to be discussed at Melbourne’s upcoming Sexpo 2015: ‘Polyamory 101′,’The Hows and Why of Genital Piercing for Sex and BDSM Play’, ‘What? We Make Porn in Australia?’ And if that’s not enough for you, there’s always Penisaurus and Penisman. Yes, the kind of thing we discourage our 5-year-olds from joking about is perfectly appropriate entertainment at Sexpo. And it’s all totally legal and promoted by our government’s tourism agencies. Possibly because the side-effects of an event such as Sexpo (aka unwanted children) send a lot of business to Marie Stopes.
During the hearing, it was discussed that our society tolerates other forms of graphic images, such as those found on cigarette packets - which are not deemed to be obscene. It is possible to find these scattered on the ground literally several times a day around the city. Although I believe beauty to be of more benefit than ugliness, there is something to be said for making smoking unattractive by exposing its harmful effects.
But Michelle’s case is about exposing abortion: she displayed a factual representation of a particular medical procedure that is performed on average around 300 times a day in Australia: the procedure that terminates the life of a human baby.
Q and A with Michelle Fraser.
Can you tell us what happened on the day of your arrest? What did you hope to achieve by displaying graphic images, rather than the usual kind of pro-life sign?
On the day of my arrest I stood outside East Melbourne control clinic [Fertility Control Clinic] with 2 photos of abortion victims, one was a 10 to 12 week old baby and the other was about a 24 week old baby. My intention was let women know that their unborn babies are not clumps of cells.
It was also my intention to let people know that the abortion clinics lie.
The practice manager of the Fertility Control Clinic was called to the stand to give evidence. After opting not to swear on the Bible, she was shown photographs of the two graphic images and asked whether they accurately represent the terminations performed at her place of employment. Can you tell us about the court testimony of the abortion facility employee?
During the court proceedings when the clinic manager was asked about the gestation and the condition of the babies (The lawyer asked, “Are they aborted babies?”).
She replied with, “I don’t know, I’m not a doctor”.
She said this regarding both of the images.
Why are you so passionate about exposing abortion and being actively pro-life?
I am passionate about exposing the evil of abortion as I was lied to and told my baby was just a clump of cells and not deserving of anything except the rubbish bin.
I want other women to at least know what they are doing so they are without excuse. I also want these abortion victims to have a voice.
I am happy to go to court for the babies, to stand in the gap and have the law keepers give their judgements.
What does the future hold for you if you’re found guilty? Innocent?
Regardless if I am found guilty or innocent I will continue to expose the truth. If guilty I hope to go to a higher court and if innocent I would like to do outreaches in universities or in the public domain somewhere. I will always pray and seek guidance on what to do. I am not afraid to say that I am prolife/ abolitionist in any conversation anywhere.
The judge reserved his decision until he has read all the evidence presented by the prosecution and Michelle’s lawyers. In the meantime, we can only wait, and contemplate what happens when abortion advocates are confronted with the reality of abortion.
They can’t handle it.
They panic and have someone arrested.
They try to have someone charged with performing an act which is, in the words of the prosecution, ‘so obscene the public must be protected from it’ and ‘discordant to the good order of society.’
If that’s what the act of showing a photograph is, then what does it say about the act of abortion itself?