About 25 Australian National University students and friends began a push for exclusion zones around abortion clinics in Canberra similar to those recently introduced in Tasmania on Friday morning, staging an ''occupation'' outside the ACT Health Building in Civic.
ANU women's officer Beth Ritchie said the protesters were concerned about a small group of Christian anti-abortion protesters who gather outside the clinic each week to display signs and say prayers together. Ms Ritchie said she would like to see laws restricting such actions to 150 metres away from Canberra abortion clinics.
''For us today it was a way to create a bit of a social barrier to that kind of harassment in lieu of a legislative one, and just draw attention to that this should be a neutral space, and the kinds of harassing protests actually negatively affect women's access to crucial health services,'' she said.
But the regular protesters maintained their right to be there, saying they did not approach people going in and out of the clinic.
John Popplewell said he had been coming to Alinga Street to pray every Friday for three or four years, but the protest, made up mostly of Catholics, had been going on for about 16 years.
''We want to stand [and] be a witness to the great crime of abortion as we see it, and we're not here to pass judgment we're just here, as you can see from our signs, praying for people hurt by abortion … we think it's murder really,'' he said.