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Old April 19th, 2015 #1
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Post Jewess Says That Anti-Abortion Speech Should Be Outlawed in Australia as "Hate Speech"

Before moving to the United States to work with human rights organisations there (because, let’s face it: the US needs human rights activism far more than Australia does), I worked for many of the most prominent human rights and civil liberties groups in Australia, including Amnesty International Australia, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, the Human Rights Working Group of the Greens NSW, and the Human Rights Law Centre. As a human rights activist and a civil libertarian, I’ve dedicated my life to protecting and promoting human rights and civil liberties, not only in Australia, but around the world. One of the things that I remember most fondly was my experience with the Human Rights Law Centre, which is an organisation dedicated to – in its own words – “freedom, respect, equality, dignity”. While the Human Rights Law Centre always defends legitimate freedom of speech and assembly (for example, the Human Rights Law Centre campaigned against Victoria’s draconian anti-protest laws which were intended to stop progressive protests from taking place), the organisation has worked diligently to expand legal protections against hate speech in Australia and to vigorously prosecute anyone expressing hateful or anti-human rights sentiments. And, in one particularly memorable case, the Human Rights Law Centre campaigned successfully to have anti-abortion protests banned in Australia.

This brings up a question worth asking: should Australia go beyond banning anti-abortion protests and ban all anti-abortion speech? First off, let’s consider the nature of freedom of speech. Not only do people have freedom of speech, but people also have freedom from certain kinds of speech (for example, racism). Freedom of speech is not absolute, and nobody believes that it is. We all learned in school that freedom of speech does not protect hate speech, and this is not something that’s even up for debate. Even the most hardcore and dedicated ultra-libertarians and free speech fundamentalists still universally agree that things like racial vilification, incitement to hatred, and Holocaust denial should be subject to legal sanctions. Nobody believes that racial vilification should be legal, or that it should be legal to deny the Holocaust. Freedom of speech does have limits, and freedom of speech does not – under any circumstances – permit expressions of hatred. George Brandis sparked massive nationwide outrage when he proposed watering down our federal laws against hate speech, but even Brandis himself stated many times that racial vilification, incitement to hatred, Holocaust denial, and offensive opinions that weren’t voiced as part of a relevant, constructive public discussion should remain illegal. Likewise, the extremely anti-censorship Australian Sex Party – which is easily the most ultra-libertarian political party in Australia – has publicly stated that freedom of speech should never include the right to insult or offend, especially if the insulting or offensive speech is racist. Not even the most extreme free speech absolutists believe that freedom of speech should protect racism.

If freedom of speech does not protect racism – which everyone agrees that it doesn’t – then why should freedom of speech protect anyone trying to argue against a woman’s human right to make decisions about her own body? Freedom of speech should never be a license to oppose human rights, to spread lies and ignorance, or to argue against the common good. To quote the prominent theology professor Neil Ormerod: “Free speech for racist bigots, free speech for climate denialists. Where will it end? Free speech for the tobacco industry to deny smoking causes cancer? There is a value in free speech to promote reasoned discussion and deliberation. And then there is obdurate and at times wilful ignorance. Smoking does cause cancer, there are no superior races and human-induced climate change is as certain as it is scientifically possible to demonstrate.”

There are certain things that, in a free and democratic society, are simply not up for debate. Racial equality is one of those things, hence why we crack down hard on anyone attempting to spread racial hatred. Vaccines are another one of those things, hence why we’re now passing laws to ban anyone from spreading anti-vaccine lies. A woman’s uterus is also not up for debate. By opposing a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, one is essentially saying that women are not equal to men and thus do not have human rights. How is this any different than racism? Why is this something that should be legally permissible?

Not only is the right to have an abortion a human right, but so is the right to accurate information. The arguments used by the anti-choice crowd are wrong, misleading, and dangerous. We wouldn’t allow people to spread lies about vaccines, so why should we allow people to spread lies about abortion? We wouldn’t allow people to vilify ethnic minorities, so why should we allow people to vilify women who have abortions? When people are allowed to manipulate public opinion against the common good, the results can more dangerous than anyone could possibly imagine. There is a reason that Australia bans hate speech and has strict media regulations: when the masses are exposed to hateful or un-democratic ideas, it can lead not only to things like the Cronulla race riots, but also to things like the Holocaust. In the words of the great human rights activist Tim Soutphommasane of the Australian Human Rights Commission, “genocide begins with words.”

Women who have abortions already tend to face depression and even suicide. Vilification from right-wing Christians increases the depression already faced by said women, and also increases their suicide rate tremendously, in the same way that the vilification of transgender people plays a major role in their high suicide rate. Freedom of speech is a core Australian value, but it’s not the on

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