MELBOURNE, Australia, June 1, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An abortion facility in Melbourne is calling on the government to crack down on filming by pro-life advocates outside their facilities as part of a campaign to silence the pro-lifers’ highly-effective vigils.
‘‘There’s no doubt that this is another way to intimidate women … It’s very threatening,’’ Dr. Susie Allanson of the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne told The Age this week. She noted that they had called the police, who said they could not place charges because the filming is not illegal.
But Ben and Tanya O’Brien, from the local branch of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, told LifeSiteNews that their filming has nothing to do with intimidation, and is strictly meant for the pro-lifers’ protection in case they face attack or allegations of wrongdoing, as they have in the past.
The Age reported that Allanson wants the government to implement either bubble zones around their facilities in which pro-life activity would be prohibited, or laws prohibiting “harassment” filming outside the facilities.
“This is the latest effort in a long-running campaign by the [Fertility Control Clinic] to get rid of us,” wrote the O’Briens in an e-mail.
The Melbourne pro-life group has done vigils and sidewalk counseling outside the facility for eighteen years, during which they say they have seen the number of abortions drop dramatically from about 30-35 per day to 10-15.
“We estimate that there have been about 200 turnarounds (that we know of) at East Melbourne in the years we have been there,” they said, noting that they have provided material, emotional, and practical support to about 50 of those women.
As a result of their success, they say the Fertility Control Clinic has made various attempts to stifle their activities through the government and local police. “Susie Allanson has written a book, published articles in professional journals and been on talkback radio in an effort to turn the public against us,” they said.
In 2008, the Melbourne City Council gave the police extra powers to issue on-the-spot fines for breaches of the peace, and last year the council threatened fines if the pro-lifers placed signs on the footpath.
The O’Briens suggested that the latest effort by Allanson was prompted by the fact that they have witnessed a number of turnarounds in the last while. The last six months have also seen significant growth in pro-life activity at the FCC’s nearby facility in Albury, where they hosted their first 40 Days for Life campaign this spring.
“We emphatically deny that we film women as they go into the abortion business, or film the entrance of the abortion business,” said the O’Briens. “We are only interested in gathering evidence to refute the many false accusations that are brought against us.”
“On a number of occasions, the police have been called to East Melbourne in response to complaints against us,” they said. “When they have seen the video evidence of the incident in question, they have, on every occasion, left the scene without charging us.”
The footage has also been useful on other occasions when the pro-lifers have been assaulted or had their property damaged or stolen by security guards and staff at the abortion facility.
As part of the abortion facility’s campaign against the pro-life group, they have tried to connect them with a man named Peter Knight, who murdered a security guard at the facility in 2001. But the O’Briens said Knight was “disdainful” of their pro-life work, describing them as “only 1% right to life.”
“We deeply regret what happened to that guard; we never condone or encourage violence as a solution to abortion,” they said. “Our aim is to overcome it with peacefulness and kindness.”