Anti-abortion protesters 'harassing women'

Last updated 05:00 02/12/2012

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Women desperate to have a baby have been caught in the crossfire of anti-abortion protests, says the latest report from the Abortion Supervisory Committee.

The report raised concerns over abortion consultants, their families and patients being the target of harassment and said women seeking fertility assistance are also mistakenly becoming the targets of anti-abortion demonstrations.

The committee's concerns come as Southland pro-life activists plan to begin weekly prayer vigils outside a new abortion clinic in Invercargill this week.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said the protest movement has a complete disregard for a woman's rights to access fertility and abortion services.

"Why should women accessing these services go through this type of harassment, misinformation and sensational photos?

"It's distressing for all women to be harassed by these images and protests."

Protests have taken place across New Zealand, including Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill and the Coromandel during the past year.

Photos from the demonstrations show activists holding placards reading "mummy felt me kick today" and "Save my life. I am precious". Often they feature an image of a foetus.

In October, abortion law reform campaigners received an anonymous threat to destroy the new Invercargill abortion clinic and intimidate its medical staff.

The abortion clinic opened secretly the previous month to protect the identity of its staff after warnings they would be named and shamed.

Abortion supervisory committee members said they were disappointed with the situation.

"The committee has heard distressing reports from certifying consultants where they, their families, patients and wider public have been the subject of harassment.

"Particularly distressing are reports of women seeking fertility assistance who have been harassed when they were mistakenly thought to be seeking pregnancy terminations."

Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr disputed their gatherings were anything but peaceful and supportive of women.

"The people who have vigils outside hospitals and clinic are there in a prayerful presence."

The Right for Life group were not responsible for bullying or threatening staff as their group opposed violence, he said.

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