Debate over whether an abortion clinic should be established in Wagga has reignited following the introduction of a bill that calls for protesters to be outlawed within a 150-metre radius of the clinics.
Julie Mecham, a crisis and support worker at the Wagga Women’s Health Centre said the debate around the discussion of opening a centre is primarily around the right of women to make choices about their fertility.
“It's all well and good to say they have rights, but if they don't have the access to the services then it’s like they don’t have the rights,” Ms Mecham said.
“The closest services for women in Wagga are in Albury and Canberra.”
Father Brendan Lee, from the Catholic Diocese of Wagga, disagreed and said life starts in the womb and he would not be happy to see a clinic open in Wagga.
“I am pro-life, while I am pro-freedom and for freedom of choice, I do believe that life begins at conception,” he said.
The problems that arise for women when they have to travel for a termination, Ms Mecham said, are psychological and financial.
“Termination is a day surgery [procedure] so they can’t stay overnight and they can’t drive home so they have to pay for accommodation or have a driver come with them,” she said.
“It’s not a choice any woman makes lightly.”
Ms Mecham supports the proposed laws that create a ‘safe zone’ around clinics due to her knowledge of the harassment women face at Albury.
“It is an important community discussion and everyone has a right to their opinions,” she said.
“What happens to those women outside reproduction clinics, however, is harassment and intimidation and that level of abuse should not be tolerated within any community.”
In terms of the exclusion zones outside clinics such as Albury, Father Lee said the government needs to be careful putting limitations on free speech.
“I don't think people have a right to intimidate, but they have the right to express their views,” he said. “You play a dangerous game, in a public place, when you try to limit a freedom of speech.”