Demonstration stirs up abortion debate

Pro choice demonstrators hold up their placads.
TERESA RAMSEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Pro choice demonstrators hold up their placads.

The abortion debate is heating up in Thames with a pro-choice group now vowing to demonstrate each week alongside anti-abortion protesters.

More than 40 people attended a pro-choice community meeting in Thames on August 4, followed by the group's first pro-choice demonstration outside Thames Hospital on August 5.

Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRANZ) member Scott Summerfield said the aim of the demonstration was to support women seeking abortion services at the hospital.

Pro-choice demonstrators gather on the corner of Mary and Mackay Streets, near Thames Hospital.
Teresa Ramsey

Pro-choice demonstrators gather on the corner of Mary and Mackay Streets, near Thames Hospital.

The demonstration was in response to a regular demonstration by anti-abortion group Voice for Life demonstrators, he said.

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"They harass and humiliate women coming here for an abortion," he said.

However, Voice for Life Hauraki Branch secretary Lyn Hopkins said the anti-abortion group's demonstrations were peaceful.

She denied that any of the demonstrators in her group had harassed women going in for an abortion.

"We just say good morning to people walking past and if somebody wants to talk to us they can," she said.

"We offer advice, care and support if they want it.

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"We want these people to think about the issue and to be there to support women who want to make a better choice in their life and that is to choose life for their child."

ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak, who spoke at the Thames pro-choice meeting, said anti-abortion harassment was another form of the street harassment that all women experienced. 

"Women experience harassment as intrusive and intimidating, even if protesters are silent," she said.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty was at the demonstration.

"I don't think that they have an understanding of how damaging these actions have been, not only to those women going to the health services but for people who have been traumatised by their own experiences," she said.

"That's why our community this morning have decided to take a positive stance."

Hopkins said the Voice for Life group could not demonstrate on August 5 because it didn't have a permit from Thames Coromandel District Council.

The group had been demonstrating without a permit for about five years because they weren't aware they needed one, she said.

However, they intended to resume their protest as soon as they could get a permit, she said.

 - Stuff

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