Troy Newman, a controversial American anti-abortion activist who heads up the group Operation Rescue, was en route to speak on the subject in five Australian cities when he says he was “pulled off a plane.”
Mr. Newman said he then found out from officials in Denver that his Australian visa had been revoked, and was barred from boarding a transit flight to Los Angeles, where he planned to board a flight to Melbourne.
“The Australian government has revoked my visa in midflight,” he wrote in a Facebook post. An accompanying video also shows a tense exchange with airline employees as they tell Newman to contact the Australian embassy.
Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed that Newman's visa had been cancelled, according to Australia's ABC News. He declined to comment any further, saying only that Newman may choose to appeal the decision.
Just days earlier, Australian Labor MP Terri Butler had written to Mr. Dutton to review the spokesman’s visa on “character grounds,” reported The Guardian.
In her letter, Ms. Butler called Newman “an anti-choice extremist,” citing quotes from his book, “Their Blood Cries Out,” which questions why doctors who perform abortions are not executed.
“I am concerned that Mr. Newman’s presence in Australia will cause significant harm to our community,” Butler wrote. “Mr. Newman’s conduct may incite discord within the community and disrupt the ability of women to access lawful reproductive medicine.”
“Furthermore, I am most concerned that Mr. Newman’s call for ‘abortionists’ to be ‘executed’ could lead to threats or the commission of acts of violence against women and medical professionals,” she added.
The letter was also backed by Australia’s main opposition leader, Penny Wong, who said, “Mr. Newman’s public comments go well beyond what would be regarded as acceptable debate in this country.”
Many on Twitter cheered the news that Newman’s visa had been rejected, while others called the move “a smear campaign” and attack on freedom of expression.
News of Mr. Newman’s visa refusal comes just days after Australian officials indicated that singer Chris Brown might also be denied entry on the same basis of “character grounds,” The Christian Science Monitor reported.
Mr. Brown is under scrutiny for his conviction for domestic assault in 2009.
“People need to understand if you are going to commit domestic violence and then you want to travel around the world, there are going to be countries that say to you, ‘You cannot come in because you are not of the character we expect in Australia,’” said Michaelia Cash, the country's newly appointed minister for women.
Brown took to Twitter to express remorse for his actions, vowing to campaign against spousal abuse. “I would be more than grateful to come to Australia to raise awareness about domestic violence,” he said. “I’m not the pink elephant in the room anymore.”