Continuing to champion women’s reproductive choices, advocating for changes to legislation to ensure a woman’s right to privately and safely access healthcare.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is in the spotlight following high profile revelations of harassment and abuse, both in Australia and internationally. This is not a new issue and it affects everyone - no matter their age, gender, circumstance or the industry they work in.
We believe there is a real opportunity to improve the laws in Australia, in order to provide protection and safety in the workplace, and equal access to justice for all. We are calling for reforms that will both reduce the risk of sexual harassment and provide greater assistance to victims.
- Women's reproductive choices in Victoria
- Challenge to Victoria’s fertility clinic safe access zones
Women's reproductive choices in Victoria
A Victorian woman seeking IVF treatment using her own eggs and donor sperm took her case to court after she was refused the procedure because she did not have the consent of her estranged husband, from whom she is separated.
In a Federal Court hearing in Melbourne, we successfully argued that the Victorian law requiring her husband's consent was invalid as it was inconsistent with federal sex discrimination laws. We acted pro bono in this matter.
Following this case, legislation was passed by the Victorian Government ensuring that no other woman in our client’s situation would ever have to face the same issue. The law was named ‘Joy’s Law’ after our client.
Justice Griffiths ordered that the women can undergo IVF treatment without consent of her husband. He also found that the Victorian law, by requiring the woman obtain the consent of her estranged husband to undergo the treatment, discriminated against her on the basis of her marital status. He declared that part of the law "invalid and inoperable".
This decision also paves the way for other Victorian women in similar circumstances to not have their former partner control their reproductive choices. The Victorian Government is currently reviewing its laws around assisted reproductive treatment including IVF.
Challenge to Victoria’s fertility clinic safe access zones
Clubb v. Edwards & Anor
The landmark constitutional case of Clubb v Edwards and Anor is an example of how we contributed to the upholding and furthering the rights of women.
In 2018, we acted pro bono for the East Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic in the High Court, after safe access laws, which protect the ability of women to safely access legal, reproductive healthcare, were challenged.
The case tested whether safe access zone laws were constitutionally valid.
This case raised important questions about the Constitution and the rights of women. The Court considered Victorian safe access zone laws and determined they were not an impermissible burden on the implied freedom of political communication under the Constitution.
The High Court case challenged the legislative basis of the safe access zone public health and wellbeing reforms in Victoria. It is a relatively rare instance of the High Court adjudicating a matter where human rights are front and centre. Attorney-General's offices across the country jointed as interveners in the matter. Human rights and academic organisations also provided submissions. The submissions we made on were on behalf of the Fertility Control Clinic and are available online.
Following the welcome High Court decision that upheld safe access zone laws, we leveraged our experience and commitment to furthering the rights of women and made a number of policy submissions to encourage law reform and the introduction of safe access laws across Australia. We are proud of the role we have played protecting and establishing safe access zones.
The issue of how to balance the reproductive rights, safety and privacy of those seeking fertility control services against the activities of anti-abortionists is not new. Victoria’s safe access zone laws were introduced following a 2015 Supreme Court challenge by the East Melbourne Clinic, where we also acted pro bono.
In that case, together with the Human Rights Law Centre, we commenced legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria on behalf of the clinic against the Melbourne City Council, seeking orders compelling the council to stop the ongoing harassment and intimidation of staff and patients entering the clinic. The 2015 court challenge was unsuccessful but legislative reform soon followed.
Before safe access zones, patients and staff would have to run a gauntlet of anti-abortionists to enter the clinic. Women would turn up scared and noticeably shaken. Since the safe access zones came into effect, women and staff are no longer a target when they walk up to the clinic, and women no longer carry the heavy burden of being publicly harassed for seeking medical care. This case and the subsequent legislative change were foundational features of the longstanding committee to improve the reproductive rights of women.
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Our Canberra office is now closed, but our team continues to serve ACT clients and are available for phone and video appointments. If you need legal advice, please call us on 1800 675 346.
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.