Abortion clinic, council in court fight

An abortion clinic will take the City of Melbourne to court to demand it enforces laws to protect patients and staff from protesters.

The Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne says members of an anti-abortion group have regularly harassed and intimidated patients and staff over a number of decades.

The clinic will start a Victorian Supreme Court action on Wednesday, seeking to compel the council to enforce existing laws.

Psychologist Susie Allanson, who works at the clinic, said it was distressing for patients to be confronted by physical and psychological harassment.

Elizabeth O’Shea from Maurice Blackburn, who along with the Human Rights Law Centre are commencing the action on behalf of the clinic, said existing laws enabled the council to act on the protesters, but they were not being enforced.

In a statement the City of Melbourne said its officers attend the clinic at least twice a week to monitor protest activity.

‘‘We do what we can in regard to behaviour outside the clinic within the extent of the laws available to council,’’ the council said in a statement.

‘‘The City of Melbourne has not been formally advised of court proceedings in relation to this matter and as such is not in a position to comment further.’’

Tanya O’Brien, a spokeswoman for Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, said the group may seek to appear in the proceeding as a friend of the court.

‘‘We would certainly like to challenge the lies that the clinic bring up in that court case,’’ she told Fairfax Radio.

Ms O’Brien denied the group harasses people.

‘‘We aren’t there to fight, we are there to reach out in help,’’ she said.