Trigger Warning: This post discusses abortion.

A while ago, I was walking through a Sydney suburb but my mind was a million miles away, as usual. I was so focussed on the the internal that I paid very little attention to my surroundings. I was simply wandering to my destination when I glanced up and saw something that jarred me out of my self-indulgent thoughts. This is what I saw:

Pro-choice not anti-choice

I was literally stopped in my tracks for a minute. I resolved not to say anything because I knew that if I started, I’d be unable to stop. As I got closer, I realised the woman shown above was chanting a prayer. She turned towards me and I was treated to the enlarged pictures she held. I don’t want to go into too much detail. I don’t know where she got the images. What I do know is that they were of late term terminations or possibly stillbirths- there were no reference points.  I also know that late-term abortions are very rare and generally for medical reasons.

I felt my heart rate increase- I was so angry that I could literally feel my pulse quicken. I still said nothing. The lady didn’t pause in her prayer and moved towards me. Then she looked at my face and took two steps back. I kept walking and made a phone call because I realised she was in the doorway of a clinic. This clinic does provide abortion services, along with surgical interventions for women who have suffered incomplete miscarriages. Also contraception advice, STI help and a few other services that women may require. It was early, but surely their appointments would begin soon. I wanted the local police to attend to ensure things remained peaceful and to try to move this woman further away if they could (as yet, there are no exclusion zones around such clinics in NSW, something that people are seeking to change)

As I moved further down the street, I heard a number of voices praying and looked up to find a small group moving up the street to join the first woman I’d seen. They had a big banner of the Virgin Mary, brochures and I saw one was wearing a tee shirt decorated with an outlined crucifix filled with images of foetuses. Someone pushed a baby in a pram but overwhelmingly, the protesters were men.

Men, 100% of whom will never find themselves pregnant.

I don’t know what my face was doing but again, they turned towards me then moved aside, quickly. I got my phone out again, to let the local police know of the new development.

I knew this still happened. I’ve read about it on news sites, heard of people having to push through these crowds, I’ve seen it in films and documentaries and encountered it through my work. But this was the first time I’d seen it with my own two eyes and not as an abstract idea. The thought of people crowding outside a clinic like this always horrified me but to really see them beginning to form, carrying their banners and graphic pictures… I was shaking.

Looking back at it now, a few days later, it’s interesting to note my physical and emotional response to these people. The pounding heart, the trembling, the anger and the outrage. And I was just walking past. How would I have felt if I had to walk through that to go inside? How would I have felt if that judgement and righteousness were directed at me?

No one should be harassed and intimidated as they enter a clinic. These people have no way of knowing why a woman is there. Does someone suffering an incomplete miscarriage need to be assaulted with graphic images? Does someone who has weighed up the pros and cons of keeping an unwanted pregnancy need to be publicly prayed at, while having pictures thrust on them? Does a person who has made what can be a difficult decision deserve to have images of foetuses and crosses held in front of them as they make their way into a clinic?

No. No, they bloody don’t.

I sincerely doubt these anti-choice protesters change anyone’s mind. All they do is harass, shame and intimidate women and people passing by. They reinforce a mindset that says women do not have the right to control what happens with their bodies.

pro-choice property

The laws around abortion  vary from state to state and some need vast improvement, but the simple fact is that a woman entering a clinic for a termination is exercising her legal right to govern her own body and I wholly support that. In fact, as a pro-choice person, I support my right and I support your right to have a termination or not. I support you having the right to decide for yourself. If you do not agree with abortion, I support your right not to have one. However, I do not support your endeavour to take that choice away from anyone else.

If you are against abortion for any reason, there is a simple solution: don’t get one. If the thought of other people getting them upsets you, remind yourself that you have no idea why they are doing so.  Nor do you have any right to know. Their body; their choice.

 

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT

 

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  • LydiaCLee

    We used to have a clinic near us and they’d be out with all the disturbing photos, every Saturday. I used to get so angry because (a) I had kids in the car (who’d get upset, thanks for that) and (b) they were deliberately trying to upset people and as you say, it could be people already distraught that they’d lost their child, they don’t know. I don’t really believe anyone struggling with their decision would change their mind on the doorstep seeing those pictures. So really it’s just malicious, insensitive selfish behaviour. I don’t believe anyone makes those choices lightly, maybe I’m naïve.

    • I just don’t understand how they think these bully techniques will stop anyone- it’s nothing but an exercise in self-righteousness

  • I would have reacted the same way. I don’t believe abortion is an easy choice for any woman and to have to be confronted with those people, on the day they are facing one of the hardest moments of their lives, just makes me so angry. We are lucky enough in this country to enjoy freedom of choice and it should also be free of this sort of barbaric judgement.

    • Absolutely agree. It’s going to be different for all women- I read a column by a woman who has had 2 terminations and she said the decision to have them wasn’t difficult for her but afterwards she felt intense relief- that tells me the idea of a pregnancy or child was the hardest for her to deal with. I don’t know her circumstances but I’m glad she had options.

  • There is a man in Brisbane City who often carries around those graphic pictures and shouts out to anyone who will listen. I often wonder what has led him to be so passionate about this. As Jodi has said below, abortion is not an easy choice. The last thing they need when entering a clinic is to be confronted with these protesters.

  • Wow! Confronting. Totally with your opinion on this. They are entitled to their beliefs but keep them out of the face and choices of others. It’s about time society as a whole recognised the different backgrounds of every person who forms a part of it and just accepted that.

    • It was very confronting! More acceptance is a great starting point.

  • I really admire your ability to not say anything..I don’t know If I would have been as accommodating! Probably the majority of women that are entering this clinic are already traumatised and upset and to have these inconsiderate and horrible people making what is already a confronting experience making it worse is disgusting! I believe that yes everyone is entitled to believe what they want, but you have no right to thrust your beliefs in such a way at others…especially those vulnerable.

    • It was hard to keep my mouth shut- but I knew opening it would end badly- they were not going to be swayed by me any more than I was by them. I absolutely agree- they are well entitled to their beliefs but in no way is it ok to shove those beliefs on others.

  • I have the same reaction when I occasionally see one of those signs here in Brisbane. Startled (because you kind of forget people still do this unless it’s in your face) and then furious. So furious that it takes all my restraint and grown-upness not to tell them exactly what I think of them. Meanwhile I nearly CHOKE on the hypocrisy of the fact that the person holding the sign is a man – a man who will NEVER have his reproductive rights imposed upon or his reproductive decisions challenged. I’ve never thought to call the police but next time I might!

    • I know the police here are exceptionally good about these things- anything to prevent a more heated situation. And they definitely appreciated the heads-up!

  • Leanne Shea Langdown

    Well done! Great post. Seriously great post.
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

  • Yes, yes yes, great post! It’s about CHOICE, and the realisation that every woman who enters those clinics has a unique reason for doing so, and because we aren’t mind-readers, we have no idea what she is thinking or feeling. Feel free to silently judge that woman if it goes against your beliefs, but don’t go shoving it in her face, as she is probably already having a terrible day.

    • Thanks Jess- you are spot on- don’t go shoving it in her face, she’s already having a terrible day- of course she is! Even if the decision to terminate was reached easily, she’s not going to have a great day so why make it harder!

  • Well done on taking action and not actually engaging with them. There is hardly a woman that I know who hasn’t had a termination at some point. One day I might write about my experience. No man will ever be faced with that decision, any man, when presented with the fact of a pregnancy, can choose to simnply walk away. Women cannot walk away from their own bodies. Men like those outside that clinic sicken me, your self restraint is admirable indeed.
    Dani @ Sand Has No Home

    • Thanks Dani, it was very hard, I openly admit! Yes, I too know many who have experienced a termination. I’m so lucky that I have not been faced with the decision. I do think the more we discuss it the more we remove the stigma- I hope you decide to write about it one day.

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    I can feel my emotions riding just reading this. Before I had children I judged women who had abortions, I thought it was so wrong. After children I realised that everyone has their own reason for doing what they do and brining a child.. An entire living person into the world is one of the biggest decision you can make… Leave women alone

    • It’s funny how motherhood can change your perspectives, isn’t it? Such a huge change should not be forced on anyone

  • I think the only people we should judge – our ourselves. Even then we should be kind and exercise the respect and human compassion we seem to find so fleeting today x

  • I’ve seen stuff like this on the news and never in real life. How awful for a woman who has miscarried to see such images. And while I don’t agree with chanting/out loud protesting against abortion, I don’t believe in abortion. I like how you ended this post though about having a choice. It’s a traumatic experience for a women to have to come to that conclusion to have one. I don’t judge her despite what I believe. I just wished that she wasn’t put in a situation to make it but sadly we don’t live in a perfect world. And good on you for ringing the police.

    • Awful for anyone to see such images, really. I think it’s fine not to believe in abortion *for yourself* however it’s been well demonstrated around the world that when we push that belief on others we create enormous and dangerous problems for women. I’m very glad our police help in such situations and glad there are good people out there who don’t judge xx

  • That makes me sad. Judgement, harassment, angrily voicing one’s opinions, or forcing people to see your point of view rarely has the desired effect on anyone. Love however, changes things. Compassion and grace makes a person safe.
    I don’t believe in abortion. I do believe though that judgement of others is wrong. The church can do better than that, and in most instances it does. This really makes me very sad.

    • The Catholic Church doesn’t- it’s the reason many, many women are still subjected to backyard abortions instead of safe and legal ones. I hope they really move with the times and start allowing contraception, for starters! You’re so right in that judgement helps no one at all. I struggle to understand their motives.

  • I’ve also never seen it in real life. I don’t know how I would react. People ask me what my opinion is and I am pro-choice. What would I do? I don’t know, because frankly it’s illogical to presume you know what you would do in a hypothetical future situation.

  • I can’t stand hypocritical fanaticism which is what this is. It’s gutless that’s what it is. And men should stay out of it.

    • That’s exactly what it is. A woman attacked me over it on twitter (no surprise) and looking into her profile etc shows her to be basically obsessed with the anti-choice movement. It’s cultish and fanatical. She also accused me of making this post up and working for PP which i think is Planned Parenthood in the US. Odd, indeed!

  • I felt a bit sick and anxious just reading this and the description of those photos. You are right that would be horrific for any woman to see heading into this clinic. I imagine that fanatics like this , their minds will never be changed. However the clinics should absolutely be protected from such protesters. I admire your caring nature Amy. x

    • Absolutely- there’s no way anything I said would have changed their minds and they are entitled to think whatever they want- but they shouldn’t be forcing it on others. And thank you xx

  • Hugzilla

    I used to work near this clinic 15 years ago and pretty sure that is the same protestor who used to lurk around there all the time back then. I’m really surprised that it’s even legal for them to do accost people like that.

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