Waikato District Health Board social worker Jo Oliver-Clarke says women going into Thames Hospital before and after undergoing termination of pregnancy procedures are distressed by a group of persistent protestors.
A group of about seven protestors have been picketing outside St George’s Church every Friday morning for the past 18 months. They show up on Friday because it is the day pregnancy termination takes place at Thames Hospital.
Mrs Oliver-Clarke said the protestors are upsetting many 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,” said Mrs Oliver-Clarke.
“We provide pregnancy counselling, not only to women who are considering pregnancy termination, but also follow-up counselling post termination at no cost.”
She said Waikato DHB social workers have spoken with women, both pre and post termination, who have been deeply affected by the protestors.
“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.
“Considering women are already given the opportunity to look at their options; there is no need for the protesting. Women have access to informed choice without the protestors there.”
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 protestors 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 protestors 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 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.
St George’s Church vicar Rev. Graham Colley said although the protesting takes place outside St George’s Church, the church does not support the protesting. The protestors are based on council land, which is next to the church’s land.
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