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Praying anti-abortionists `public act of protest`: prosecutors



When three men went to Canberra's abortion clinic last year it was in a "public act of protest rather than a private act of prayer," prosectors told a court on Friday.

But their defence barrister said what the three men did on February 3 was only silent prayer, and not a protest by any means.

Anti-abortionists Kerry Mellor, 76, John Popplewell, 76, and Ken Clancy, 79, have faced a hearing in the ACT Magistrates Court over their actions that day.

The three men had for years been part of a pro-life group that gathered outside the abortion clinic in the ACT Health building on Moore Street on Fridays, one of the days staff performed abortions at the clinic.

But in March 2016 the ACT government introduced an exclusion zone around the clinic and banned protest within the zone.

The court heard the group had once brought placards and props such as a crucifix to their public prayer vigils.

But once the law changed, they say they went there only to silently pray.

They did not gather in groups, did not bring bibles and one said he kept his rosary beads out of sight in a leather pouch on his belt.

Prosecutors allege the men continued to go there to protest in defiance of the zone.

On February 3 last year, Mr Mellor, Mr Popplewell and Mr Clancy were fined $750 for protesting in the exclusion zone.

But the three refused to pay their fines and were later summonsed to face court.

The men have all admitted they oppose abortion. Giving evidence on Friday, Mr Mellor agreed he was a devout Catholic who believed abortion was a mortal sin.