A QUEENSLAND man who staged a pro-life protest near a Hobart pregnancy termination clinic yesterday has become the first person charged for violating the state's new anti- abortion protest laws.
But the 58-year-old man was not charged with the new offence created in the Reproductive Health Act, which critics of the law say proves it is an unnecessary clause.
Tasmania is the first Australian jurisdiction to introduce access zones around pregnancy termination clinics, which make it an offence to conduct a protest related to termination, intimidate people attending a clinic for a termination or run footbath interference within 150 metres of a clinic.
The new offence carries a maximum penalty of 12 months jail or a fine of up to $9750.
Hobart Police Inspector Glen Woolley said the man was seen by police on the corner of Macquarie and Victoria streets, within 150metres of Specialist Gynaecology Centres, handing out "anti-abortion material."
The man was holding a placard which quoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and another with a picture of an unborn child.
Inspector Woolley said the man was charged with failing to comply with the directions of a police officer, not with provisions under the Reproductive Health Act, after he refused a request to move on.
He will appear in the Hobart Magistrates Court this week.
Dr Paul Hyland, who operates Specialist Gynaecology Centres, said he regularly saw protesters and that yesterday's incident was confirmation Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne, who championed the laws, was right to include the clause.
But AMA Tasmania president Dr John Davis said that police chose not to charge the man under the provisions of the Act was proof the new offence was unnecessary.
Ms O'Byrne said access zones were introduced to ensure women accessing a termination were free from harassment and intimidation."This is not about impeding anyone's right to free expression, this is about protecting women facing an incredibly difficult and complex decision," Ms O'Byrne said.