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Pro-life speaker’s visa woes harms freedom of speech, supporters say

Pro-life worry:  A US pro-life advocate has encountered difficulties with his visa.

Pro-life worry: A US pro-life advocate has encountered difficulties with his visa.

By Emilie Ng

UPDATE: October 7

AMERICAN pro-life activist Troy Newman has returned home after a High Court judge refused his entry into Australia last week.

Mr Newman, who is behind the undercover videos that sparked the investigation into US government funding for abortion facility Planned Parenthood, lost his case in the High Court to remain in Australia for a speaking tour.

Mr Newman appeared at the High Court over two days to appeal the Australian immigration department’s decision to revoke his visa.

Right to Life Australia’s legal team prepared a statement following the High Court’s ruling to deny Mr Newman entry into Australia.

The statement said Justice Geoffrey Nettle accepted there was “a serious question to be tried about whether the decision to cancel (Mr Newman’s) visa was invalid, having regard to the implied freedom of political communication”.

“However, the judge found that the balance of convenience did not favour the grant of an interlocutory injunction to prevent his removal from Australia whilst that serious question is tried.

“On this basis, the application for an interlocutory injunction was refused.”

Mr Newman was scheduled to speak in Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns for Right to Life Australia from October 2 to 9.

His visa was revoked while he was still in the US after several Australian politicians, including Labor MP Terri Butler, raised concerns about his views on abortion.

These include Mr Newman’s alleged connection of abortion and the death penalty.

Pro-life supporters have said he only questioned why the American legal system did not consider the death penalty for abortionists, who in his view were committing murder, a crime that can impose the death penalty in the US.

Right to Life Australia spokeswoman Mary Collier spoke to The Catholic Leader prior to boarding a flight from Brisbane to Cairns for the last leg of the Troy Newman Tour. 

“We are disappointed, because we were looking forward to hearing him tell us what’s happening in the US with Planned Parenthood,” Ms Collier said. 

“We are carrying on the Troy Newman Tour without Troy Newman, speaking up there to educate people on what really happened and to keep promoting the pro-life message.”

Ms Collier said Mr Newman had not been deported but “went on his own accord with his wife” Melissa Newman following the ruling.

“We have spoken to him since and obviously he’s disappointed but he doesn’t want to give up,” she said.

Ms Collier said despite Mr Newman losing his case following two high court appearances, the media coverage had stirred up conversations about free speech in Australia.

“Even the baggage handlers and the taxi drivers have been asking questions about the case,” she said.

“The public are saying why should he not be able to say what he wants to say.”

Ms Collier said there were “fears” that activists against abortion would be denied entry into Australia following Mr Newman’s case. 

Right to Life Australia is encouraging Mr Newman’s supporters to contact their federal members about their concerns.

UPDATE: 2:33

QUESTIONS about Troy Newman’s ban into Australia have been raised by Christian groups following no evidence of a criminal history or records of him saying he incited violence on abortion practitioners.

The Australian Christian Lobby has asked whether the Australian Government revoked Mr Newman’s visa based on a full inquiry.

“Denying someone entry to Australia is a serious matter, particularly when their purpose in coming is to speak about the contested political issue of abortion,” ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said.

 “I hope any decision to revoke Mr Newman’s visa was done after proper inquiry and the application of coherent principles and not in response to political pressure from people who do not wish to see the issue of abortion discussed in the public square.”

Mr Newman was invited into Australia by pro-life group Right to Life Australia to speak on the undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted baby’s organs.

Mr Shelton said Australians were entitled to be informed about Planned Parenthood.

“It is important that Australians know about Planned Parenthood’s trade in unborn baby parts because the Australia government provides $30 million of taxpayers’ money to the organisation’s Asia-Pacific operations,” Mr Shelton said.

Pro-life supporter Elizabeth Purton, who was preparing to host Mr Newman at a Brisbane young adult function, asked why Mr Newman was being targeted when various other outspoken anti-abortion speakers have been previously allowed into the country, including former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson, and abortion attempt survivor Melissa Ohden.

“I really don’t get why he is being pinpointed out of the numerous pro-life speakers of the last few years,” Miss Purton said.

UDPATE: 12:35pm

US pro-life activist Troy Newman is at the centre of a battle with the Immigration Department over whether he can stay in Australia for a speaking tour or be deported.

Mr Newman had been barred from entering Australia but the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that he has flown to Melbourne anyway and arrived this morning (October 1).

The Sydney Morning Herald has quoted a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton as saying an injunction was lodged in the Federal Court seeking to restrain the Federal Government from preventing Mr Newman’s entry, and that the matter was due to be decided today.

The spokeswoman said Mr Newman “does not hold a visa, he is unable to enter Australia and remains in the presence of (Australian Border Force) officials at the Melbourne Airport pending his removal”.

Pro-life supporters were stunned yesterday when the Australian government revoked the visa for the Christian activist who is behind a series of undercover videos on an American abortion provider.

ORIGINAL STORY: 11:28am, October 1

US pro-life speaker Troy Newman was told midway through his scheduled flight from Denver to Melbourne the Australian government had revoked his visa.

Lobby group Right to Life Australia invited Mr Newman to speak about his company, Operation Rescue, at events throughout Australia, including Brisbane’s young adult function Faith on Tap.

Faith on Tap organiser Elizabeth Purton said a “smear campaign” run by pro-abortion groups aimed at preventing “free speech” was behind the visa revocation.

Mr Newman’s Facebook page said today: “Please pray we can get past immigration so the truth can be told throughout Australia.”

Miss Purton said Mr Newman’s work exposing Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby organs after performing abortions had angered the pro-choice movement in Australia.

Mr Newman organised undercover videos that confirmed Planned Parenthood was selling organs of aborted babies.

Pro-lifer: Troy Newman

Pro-lifer: Troy Newman

Miss Purton said the pro-abortion smear campaign spurred from reports connecting Mr Newman to allegedly promoting the death penalty for abortion practitioners.

However, Miss Purton said pro-choice supporters had taken the comments “completely out of context”.

“Ending a child’s life makes you a murderer,” she said.

“He lives in a country where the death penalty is a very real consequence for murder.”

Former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson, who is now a pro-life activist, revealed in a Facebook posted that Mr Newman, a close friend, had disagreed with the death penalty.

Abby Johnson visited Australia in 2011 to speak against Planned Parenthood.

Following Mr Newman’s visa cancellation, Miss Purton wrote a letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton requesting an “urgent meeting” to discuss Mr Newman’s “wrongful termination”.

Miss Purton challenged Mr Newman’s visa cancellation based on Section 128 and 116 of the Migration Act, which states visa holders in Australia may have visas revoked if they pose a risk to the safety of Australians or individuals.

Miss Purton said other pro-life activists had entered Australia successfully and questioned why Mr Newman had been targeted.

Right to Life Australia chief executive officer Dr Katrina Haller said it was “perfectly legal to talk to people in the street and give literature” on pro-life causes in Australia.

Dr Haller said Mr Newman was invited to speak to Right to Life Australia members and supporters.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been contacted for comment.

Mr Newman’s supporters have started an online petition on September 30 and required 30 more signatures to reach their goal of 2500.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that Rebecca Kiessling, who was conceived after her mother was raped, had been to Australia.  She has since confirmed that she has not spoken in the country.

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