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A Melbourne abortion clinic lost its battle to stop protesters harassing patients.

UPDATE:

Right to life protesters are free to continue protesting outside an East Melbourne abortion clinic following a Victorian Supreme Court ruling.

The Fertility Control Clinic asked the court to order Melbourne City Council to stop the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants group from gathering outside the premises, as they have done for more than 20 years.

The clinic argued the protesters, whose aim was to stop women from getting abortions, harassed female patients and staff.

A loss for women in the Supreme Court today. Image via iStock.

But, in a judgment handed down today, the court found the council had done nothing wrong by failing to take action against the group.

Outside court, protester Jeremy denied the group was harassing women, the ABC reported.

“Those who would seek some help, want some help, we’re there,” he said.

“That [harassing] wouldn’t be of any benefit at all, if they’re looking for help.”

Lawyers for the abortion clinic said the law needed to be changed because women seeking abortions had the right to be treated with dignity.

Mamamia previously reported:

Going to an abortion clinic is never going to be an easy visit for a woman.

But – despite the medical procedure being legal in Victoria – a pro-life group hell-bent on protesting outside an East Melbourne clinic six days a week are making it even more difficult for women to attend.

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The group, called Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, try to stop pregnant women getting abortions by giving them pamphlets, waving placards and yelling slogans like “don’t kill your baby”.

Pro-life protesters outside an American clinic. Image via Twitter.

Protests outside the Fertility Control Clinic have been going on for decades. (Even a security guard was fatally shot by an anti-abortionist outside the clinic in 2001.)

Now, the clinic has taken the issue to the Supreme Court, demanding that the local council deal with the vigilantes.

The abortion clinic is arguing that, by not removing the protestors, Melbourne City Council is failing to protect women – both patients and staff – from threatening behaviour and harassment, Fairfax Media reports.

It wants the council to issue protestors with prohibition notices or impose exclusion zones outside the clinic, similar to those used in some parts of North America.

Clinical psychologist Susie Allanson said the police had been called hundreds of times in the 24 years she had worked at the clinic, but to no avail.

“I don’t know whether it falls under the umbrella of sexism or the way violence has not been taken seriously in many respects as well, because I think it is a form of violence and disrespect to women,” Dr Allanson said outside court.

“Although we’ve got all sorts of state government, local government, federal government policies about respecting women, women’s participation in society, not showing violence and harassment towards women, nothing so far has been done to address this problem.”

Representing the clinic, Peter Hanks, QC, told the Victorian Supreme Court the pro-lifers were entitled to free speech, but not at the expense of upsetting or causing distress to the women.

He said their conduct had discouraged some women from attending the clinic.

In Hollywood terms, this is what the situation looks like (post continues after video):

Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle said the conduct outside the clinic was “vile”, Fairfax Media reports.

“I’ve got a great deal of sympathy for those women who are harassed in, I think, quite a vile way at a difficult and sensitive time of their lives,” Mr Doyle said.

“They don’t need a bunch of idiots giving them a hard time.”

For more on this topic, try these articles:

She’s 10 years old and pregnant. And she’s being denied an abortion.

We need more women like Jemima Kirke to talk openly about abortion.

“I know my abortion was the right choice.”

The Australian town where anti-abortion protesters are pushing women to self-harm.