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Australian pro-life activist fined for protesting near abortion center

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Pro-life activist John Preston of Queensland was fined $3,000 earlier this week after being convicted on charges stemming from an April pro-life protest in the Australian state of Tasmania. Preston, along with Raymond and Penny Stallard, were charged with violating a 2013 state law which declared protesting within 150 metres of an abortion clinic illegal.

Preston, along with the Stallards, argue that the protest ban violates religious freedom and political expression, calling the law “unconstitutional.” The defendants’ lawyer argued that the case presented an important test of the constitutional validity on the protest ban. However, the court chose to side with prosecutors.  Raymond and Penny Stallard were sent home with what basically amounts to a warning (depending on “good behavior” for the next 12 months), but Magistrate Catherine Rheinberger chose to levy a fine on Preston, who reportedly has been convicted on similar charges in other states.

ABC reports that the case represents the first conviction of a pro-life protester in Tasmania since the 2013 enactment of the state’s ban on protests near abortion clinics. Preston was charged with similar offenses in Tasmania in 2014, but charges were dropped as prosecutors realized they did not have a case.

Preston says he intends to appeal the court’s decision and continue to conduct peaceful protests, although not in Tasmania “until this matter is resolved.”

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