'Wouldn't survive a High Court challenge': Dubbo MP Troy Grant defends opposition to 'atrocious' abortion safe access laws

Dubbo MP Troy Grant. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE
Dubbo MP Troy Grant. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

Dubbo MP Troy Grant has defended his decision to oppose abortion safe access laws that came before the NSW Parliament last week.

The laws make it illegal to communicate, film or intimidate a woman within 150 metres of an abortion clinic, and passed the lower house by 61 votes to 18 in the early hours of Friday morning.

The offences carry penalties of up to six months jail for a first offence and 12 months jail for a subsequent offence.

Mr Grant said he supported the right of women to access health services “free of hassle”. But he said could not support an “atrocious law” which would not survive a High Court Challenge.

“I absolutely oppose anybody hassling them or protesting or annoying them or harassing them or intimidating them. So if you just asked me on principle, I absolutely support it,” he said.

“But that’s not what we had in front of us. We had in front of us very poor legislation and my job is not to vote in favour of the idea of things, my job as a legislator is to vote for law.

“I voted against the very poor piece of legislation that didn’t go through any proper process, didn’t go through any parliamentary committee, didn’t go through any government process, didn't go through party process because it was a free vote.”

The most contentious provision of the law has been the creation of a broad communication offence, which renders it illegal to make “a communication that relates to abortions, by any means”, that could cause “distress or anxiety” to a person accessing or leaving a clinic.

Mr Grant feared the legislation would have unintended consequences, saying people could be jailed for unknowingly causing offence.

Mr Grant put forward the example of a nun at a church located close to one of NSW’s 19 reproductive health clinics, many of which have little signage.

“A nun goes out the front and has a prayer for whatever reason she does in the normal course of her duties and she's within 150 metres; if someone accessing the abortion clinic now feels affronted or feels that prayer is somehow upsetting her, then that nun is liable for jail and has no defence,” he said.

Addressing Parliament on Thursday, Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said she was “dismayed that this bill makes no provision for what the community might think is reasonable in these circumstances”.

“If each of us is expected to guess what degree of offence we will cause any person without reference to what is reasonable and then face jail if we get it wrong, I doubt that anyone in this Chamber would speak again,” she said.

Mr Grant said: “I can not see this law surviving the High Court. Which will send everyone back to where they should have started; to think about this properly.”