Katter's Australian Party senator Fraser Anning has failed to convince most of his parliamentary colleagues to "condemn" safe-access zones around abortion clinics.
Earlier this month New South Wales became the fifth Australian jurisdiction to establish the zones to protect patients from harassment and intimidation within a prescribed area of an abortion clinic.
Anning, who recently joined Katter's Australian Party after initially running as a candidate for One Nation and then sitting as an independent, introduced a motion on Monday afternoon to condemn the NSW government for restricting "freedom of speech and political expression".
The motion said NSW had "copied the socialist government in Victoria". Safe-access zones also exist in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
It was voted down 34-17. The government allowed members a conscience vote and only two voted against the motion.
Before the vote senator Derryn Hinch said the motion was an "obscenity".
"I was ashamed as a male to even discuss today's agenda with female members of my staff," Hinch said.
Greens senator Janet Rice opposed the motion because she said no patient should have to "run a gauntlet of aggressive opponents" in order to access a medical procedure.
"Quite frankly, we don’t need another man like senator Anning chiming in to challenge women’s ability to access health services safely," Rice told BuzzFeed News. "We know that these so-called ‘protesters’ outside sexual health clinics have handed out plastic foetuses, they throw holy water at women accessing the premises, and clinic staff are worried about their safety."
The motion was supported by Toowoomba senator Barry O'Sullivan, who last year told BuzzFeed News women with unwanted pregnancies were too "shy" to "reach out" and ask about options other than abortion, and said: "Many in the [Liberal] party and outside would like to lock [pregnant women] up and bind their arms and say 'no abortion could occur'."
The motion was also supported by Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi, who in November introduced a motion against anti-domestic violence organisation White Ribbon because it supports reproductive rights.
It also garnered a yes vote from Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz, who in 2014 claimed there was a link between abortion and breast cancer.
This purported link that has been widely and repeatedly rejected by Australia's medical organisations, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Australian Cancer Council, the Breast Cancer Network of Australia, and the Australian Medical Association.
It is not the first motion regarding abortion Anning has moved in the Senate.
In February he moved a motion (which was defeated) calling on the federal government to fund counselling for women "in relation to pregnancy terminations".
"We have seen outrage over the destruction of kangaroos, yet where is the same compassion when it comes to an unborn human?" Anning asked the chamber at the time.
All Australians accessing abortion services in the public or private system are offered counselling, which may go a way to explaining why the motion – saying mothers should be informed of the risks of abortion and alternatives "such as adoption" – was voted down 24 to 14.
In some Australian states, counselling before an abortion is actually compulsory. There is also a free, national, confidential information and counselling hotline for women, their partners, and families relating to issues of conception, pregnancy, birthing, and postnatal care.
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
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