PRO-lifer Graham Preston, a regular campaigner outside Brisbane’s abortion clinics, knows his days of freedom to do that are numbered.
Queensland’s Termination of Pregnancy Bill – effectively legalising abortion – comes into force on December 3, and 63-year-old Mr Preston faces arrest if he continues his activism.
New laws will establish 150m exclusion or “bubble zones” around abortion clinics or medical facilities that offer abortions, to stop “harassment and intimidation” of patients and staff.
Those caught breaking the rules face arrest and up to one year in prison – not that Mr Preston is a stranger to Queensland authorities during three decades of campaigning.
He has been jailed six times for his outspoken stand against abortion, and received countless warnings.
In July 2016, Preston was fined $3000 for protesting outside an abortion clinic in Hobart, having specifically flown to Tasmania to test that state’s laws.
“I have my name in hundreds of policemen’s notebooks,” Mr Preston said.
“I think our society wants to turn a blind eye and forget what’s happening (with abortion).”
Mr Preston is waiting for a decision in a High Court challenge to “bubble zones” laws in Victoria and Tasmania – on the grounds that they suppress freedom of speech.
Lawyers argued on Mr Preston’s behalf that the safe access zone laws in those two states were invalid because they violated the implied freedom of political communication under the Australian Constitution.
However, those who support the Victorian and Tasmanian laws claim they protect people from unwelcome intrusions into their privacy by strangers who seek to interfere in deeply personal decisions.
“The judges have reserved their decisions and we are just waiting to hear what their decision is,” Mr Preston said.
“If they find in our favour then these laws will have to be removed and if they find against us, well, we won’t be able to do anything against them.”
It could take months for the High Court’s seven judges to hand down a decision, but Mr Preston considers it to have been a privilege “to have represented the rights of the littlest Australians, the unborn, in their silent cry for life”.
Last week, while continuing to campaign outside a Bowen Hills abortion clinic, Mr Preston was twice questioned by police and warned of the impending new Queensland abortion laws.
He is not deterred.
“Just because the law has been changed it doesn’t mean we should become silent. It’s more important than ever,” Mr Preston said.
“I will continue campaigning on the streets anywhere there is traffic around – so I am not stopping altogether.
“One of the signs I’ve held lately reads: ‘Abortion still destroys lives’.”
Standing for life: Graham Preston protesting on the street outside a Brisbane abortion clinic.