Court hearing commences over safe access to East Melbourne fertility clinic

3 June 2015
A legal bid to ensure safe access for patients and staff at an East Melbourne fertility clinic will be heard before the Supreme Court today.

The Fertility Control Clinic has for decades been subject to harassment by members of the anti-abortion group, Helpers of God’s Precious Infants.

Last year, the clinic launched legal action against the Melbourne City Council over its failure to ensure women can safely access its medical services.

Social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn and the Human Rights Law Centre are running the case on a pro-bono basis for the clinic, with the generous assistance of Peter Hanks QC, Kristen Walker QC and Therese McCarthy, who are also providing their services pro-bono.

Elizabeth O’Shea, a senior associate at Maurice Blackburn, said: “This case is about ensuring that patients and staff can safely access the clinic without being harassed and intimidated by aggressive anti-abortion groups.

“We will be asking the court to compel the Melbourne City Council to act against anyone who harasses the clinic’s patients and staff, and to establish safe access to the clinic so that people can enter without being subject to intimidation and harassment.”

Emily Howie, director of advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said: “Forcing women to run the gauntlet of harassment and intimidation in order to access health services is simply unacceptable.

“The right to free speech is one thing, but when it’s part of a harmful set of behaviours deliberately constructed to impede a woman’s right to safely access health services, clearly something has to be done.”

The legal case for the Fertility Control Clinic will highlight that the members of the anti-abortion group meet the definition of nuisance as outlined in Victoria’s Public Health and Wellbeing Act. Under this act, the council has a duty to address nuisance issues within its borders.

The case is scheduled to run for two days in the Supreme Court.