Police called to anti-abortion protest
PRO-LIFE protesters held a vigil outside a Surry Hills abortion clinic today, furious that picketing clinics will soon be illegal.
Police were called when a light rail traffic controller blasted heavy metal music to drown out the Lord's Prayer and hymns such as Silent Night, Immaculate Mary and Holy God We Praise Thy Name.
Sydney University Women's Officer Madeline Ward, who had an abortion last year and now volunteers to usher patients past the protesters, encouraged the tradie to crank up the volume.
"Everyone should have the right to access a medical service without being harassed," Ms Ward said.
"It's a stressful experience, even if you don't have to run the gauntlet past Catholics yelling 'whore' and 'baby murderer'."
Ms Ward was part of a small group of volunteers who gathered in the doorway of the Devonshire Street clinic, ready to offer support to any women facing the daunting prospect of entering as a patient in full view of the congregation.
The "escorts" have been volunteering for the last six months, but are relieved they won't need to when the safe access zon laws take effect within weeks.
A new "safe access zone" law that passed Parliament earlier this month will mean protesters could now be locked up if they intimidate, harass or film people within 150 metres of abortion clinics or hospitals that provide terminations.
Jail terms will be up to six months for a first offence and up to a year for repeated offences.
Protest organiser Paul Hanrahan, who led an estimated 60-strong procession from St Peter's Catholic Church in Surry Hills, said allegations of harassment were overblown and he merely wanted to provide support to vulnerable women.
Mr Hanrahan claims his organisation Family Life International has convinced hundreds of Australian women to forgo abortions in the last two decades by offering financial and emotional support.
"This new law is a deprivation of our liberty," Mr Hanrahan said.
"The law will stop us helping women who don't want abortions but feel they have no other choice because they're not being supported by family, husbands or boyfriends," Mr Hanrahan said.
"No woman wants an abortion."
The Catholic protesters, who observed mass before the protest, came from parishes across Sydney.