In Australia, we have a right to free and peaceful protest. But to force your ideals on to someone to the point of self harm is inexcusable.
Health workers from Albury, NSW have told The Guardian that anti-abortion activists outside the only clinic in the region are doing just that.
The protesters, who call themselves Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, are reportedly so overwhelming while picketed outside the clinic that women attending for a termination have been driven to self-harm.
The activists have been around for over a decade. They surround Albury’s Fertility Control Clinic every Thursday – which is the day that terminations are carried out – shaming any woman who’s entering the building. The protesters are so vicious that they have raised concern to the point that health professionals have formed their own group called, Rights to Privacy.
Rights to Privacy badges, from the Albury group.
Associate Professor from Albury Dr Pieter Mourik spoke to Mamamia and said women are being harassed and violated every week just for being in public — and it needs to stop.
“Our group, we’re supported by 95% of the community but this 8% is the most wealthy,” he said.
Dr Mourik explained that one-third of women who should be attending the Albury clinic sometimes drive the 800km-round trip to Melbourne, or even further to Sydney because they don’t want to be publicly shamed.
“They [the anti-abortion activists] shame people, they record number plates,” he said.
“Our concern is that we are a small town and, just say a teacher comes in with an unwanted pregnancy – I don’t trust this group to not go to the principal and tell her about it.”
A social worker wishing to stay unnamed spoke to The Guardian about her concerns for mums going to the fertility clinic. She told them: “Some teenage girls do self-harm because they don’t feel safe going to the clinic here, or they’re worried they will be identified by the protesters and the whole city will know about it.”
Regular protesters outside the clinic.
While the Helper’s of God’s Precious Infants also protest outside Sydney and Melbourne clinics, the mob is much more prominent in Albury because the town has just the one publicly-funded women’s health clinic in the whole region.
The Guardian attempted to speak to the co-ordinator of Albury Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, Anna von Marburg. While she didn’t answer any of their questions directly about women being driven to self-harm, she did say to them the group had displayed “exemplary behaviour and incredible courage in the face of very aggressive tactics by abortion advocates”.
Anna von Marburg outside the clinic.
She also told The Guardian: “We believe that we can offer a solution that does not involve the destruction of human life.”
What she didn’t say is that the tactics of her group are denying woman safe and private access to their legal rights over their reproductive lives.
And causing untold emotional damage while they’re doing it.
What do you think the boundaries should be around abortion-clinic protesters?