Anti-abortion protesters upsetting, says Waikato DHB

Last updated 15:39 14/04/2014
Alf Johnston
FAIRFAX NZ

LOUD AND CLEAR: Protester Alf Johnston shows up every Friday to deliver his anti-abortion message.

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A group of anti-abortion protesters that have picketed Thames Hospital every Friday for 18 months are upsetting and targeting vulnerable people, say Waikato District Health Board staff. 

But the protesters say they just want the women to consider other options.

A group of about seven protesters have been picketing outside St George's Church every Friday morning - when pregnancy termination is carried out -  for the past 18 months.

DHB social worker Jo Oliver-Clarke said the protesters upset women who have already made ''an informed decision'' about pregnancy termination.

''There is a legal requirement in New Zealand to offer unbiased pre-termination counselling. Waikato DHB social workers assist women to look at all options including guardianship, adoption and single parenting,'' Mrs Oliver-Clarke said. She said Waikato DHB social workers had spoken with women, both pre and post termination, who have been deeply affected by the protesters.

 ''Some of those affected are women are on their way for a procedure that is both personal and painful but is being performed for the right reasons, at the given time,'' Thames Hospital manager Jacquie Mitchell said.

''Others are women who have undergone terminations in the past and the protesting brings up the pain and trauma of a procedure that was also right for them at the given time. One woman who expressed alarm at the protesting underwent pregnancy termination 15 years ago at Thames Hospital. She did not want to be named. 

''Every Friday morning I feel persecuted for my decision. I can only imagine how horrifying it would have been for me to be confronted with that when I entered the hospital for my procedure,'' she said. ''It really concerns me that the protesters have chosen to protest at that time on that day knowing full well that the termination clinic takes place then. I see this as targeting vulnerable people.'' 

She urged the protesters to think about the women affected by pregnancy termination. ''What about the 12-year-old that has been impregnated by a family member, or raped by a stranger? The 14-year-old that could not possibly bring up a child on their own because of lack of family support? The couple that have had to terminate because of severe complications?

 ''This must be horrific for them,'' she said.  

Protester Alf Johnston, of the Hauraki branch of Voice For Life,  said they wanted people using the service to think about the consequences.

"We can't hope to change the law, we're just trying to make people think, " he said. "We believe that life is precious."

Phillipa Ellard travels from Waihi each week to stand with her sign. "For me it's about women's health rather than about infants' health, " she said. Ellard said she felt there was not a lot of "real counselling" offered.

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"I've seen a lot depression in women, post-abortion. They're told it can't possibly be a result of their abortion. I just think there are choices, " she said.

Ms Ellard didn't think all options for women with an unwanted pregnancy were discussed.

"I miscarried with some of my own children and with our fourth one the doctor said I think she'll be brain damaged and blind, I think you should have an abortion, " she said.

"It's a really hard call to be faced with that.

"I think he quite genuinely thought he was saving me from (this). We said no in the end and she was born perfect."

St George's Church vicar Rev Graham Colley said although the protesting takes place outside St George's Church, the church did not support the protesting, which took place on council-owned land.

- Waikato

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