WELLINGTON — Prolife supporters are harassing people seeking or providing abortion services, claims the Abortion Supervisory Committee in its latest annual report.
However, specific information provided after persistent inquiry does not seem to support the
committee’s claims.
In its 2013 annual report, as it did in its 2012 report, the committee said harassment of
people seeking or providing abortion services is a significant concern to the committee.
“We have continued to work proactively with the police in response to reports of protests near licensed institutions and harassment of abortion clinic staff, other hospital staff and patients. While we recognise the right to peaceful protest, we will take all practicable steps to address any perceived harassment, either separate from or as part of any protest activity,” the committee said in the 2013 report.
The committee added that it is considering what support and preventative measures can be put in place to prevent further harassment.
A press release from pro-life group Right to Life said that, in 2012, it had lodged an Official Information Act request with the committee asking for information on the alleged harassment.
“The committee refused to provide any information.”
A complaint was then laid with the Ombudsman. A further complaint was made following the
2013 report.
“The committee, in response to a request from the Ombudsman, provided Right to Life with
a list on July 11 of the incidents of the alleged harassment, including:
1. “Small groups of people protesting silently with banners on a weekly basis [nationwide at
facilities, reported to committee on numerous occasions].”
2. “The handing out of objects such as rosaries, white crosses, rubber foetuses to women
entering clinics, including women not entering [nationwide, reported to committee sporadically].”
3. “Articles, letters and copies of images sent to cert consultants and clinics through the mail nationwide [reported to committee sporadically].”
Right to Life denied accusations of harassment.
“The presence of people peacefully praying outside abortion facilities is protected by
the New Zealand Bill of Rights, which guarantees freedom of speech and assembly,” its statement said.