The High Court has upheld the validity of no-protest zones around abortion clinics, ahead of the extension of the ACT's exclusion zones.
Two anti-abortion activists lost their High Court bid to have their convictions overturned for protesting in abortion buffer zones in Victoria and Tasmania on Wednesday.
Graham Preston and Kathleen Chubb tried to argue their prosecutions breached their implied right to freedom of political communication in the Constitution.
The case could have had implications for the ACT's buffer zone, introduced in 2016 to stop protesters holding vigils within 150 metres of the Moore Street abortion clinic.
The territory government was later forced to extend the zone after protests continued on its fringes. Those found to breach the zones risk fines of up to $4000.
ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said they believed protests no longer occurred within the zones, allowing women to access the services "free of fear and anxiety".
"Protest-free zones are fundamentally about a woman's right to access a safe and legal medical service without being intimidated or judged by others in any way," she said.
The ruling comes ahead of the extension of buffer zones to general practices where drugs like MS2 Step will be prescribed.
Women have been forced to go over the border to access lower cost medical abortions, as ACT GPs were not able to write scripts for those drugs.
Protest-free zones are fundamentally about a woman's right to access a safe and legal medical service without being intimidated or judged by others in any way- Meegan Fitzharris
"As part of legislation changes passed in the Assembly in last year, as of September this year, GPs will ... also be able to opt-in to have an patient privacy protected area in place around their clinic," Ms Fitzharris said.
"The protected area around these clinics will be no less than 50 metres."
However Right To Life president Margaret Tighe said she had no doubt protests would continue.
She said one outside a Melbourne clinic had "saved 300 babies over the years".
"It means that unless these people are prepared to pay fines or go to jail they will be prevented from protesting the killing," she said.
"Graham Preston spent eight months collectively in jail because of his persistence in protesting and I have no doubt Graham will continue to do that, he's a very courageous man."
But Women's Centre for Health Matters chief executive Marcia Williams said the right to protest did not overtake the right to access a health service without harassment.
"[Women have told us] how much easier it was for them to actually go in without being at risk of people judging them for their decisions; we did get a lot of feedback in that process saying it did impact on their decision-making," Ms Williams said.
Marie Stopes director of public affairs Jacquie O'Brien said the protesters evaporated overnight once the buffer zone was introduced.
"Previously we did have staff knock off shifts in pairs, they were quite intimidated by the protesters outside, you could never tell who was out there," Ms O'Brien said.
"Things like 'murderer' were often said or 'you'll go to hell'. Our staff say it's a completely different experience going to work, you don't have people eyeball you or try to block your path. "
Ms O'Brien said she would be disappointed if GP clinics were targeted by protestors because of one service.
"I don't think anyone in the community would find that a reasonable thing to do," Ms O'Brien said.
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