Voice for Life members in Thames have vowed to continue their protest against abortion “for as long as it takes” after pro-abortion elements tried and failed to get the Thames Coromandel District Council to revoke their permit to assemble outside Thames hospital. VFL Thames representative Lyn Hopkins said on October 21 that the pro-life group had received a permit in the name of Right to Life to assemble on a different corner of the
intersection where they normally gather.

The current permit is in the name of Voice for Life. The pro-abortion protest had a permit to gather on the same corner where the pro-life protest has been.

Mrs Hopkins expected the pro-abortion group to apply for a permit on the “new” corner too, so they can “continue their programme of disruption and misinformation, and try to set up a public disorder complaint”.

As of last Friday (November 18) though, there were no protesters from the pro-abortion groups. VFL Thames celebrated five years of presence outside the hospital.

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) earlier set up a counter protest outside Thames Hospital.

Mrs Hopkins said there were 180 abortions at Thames Hospital last year, whereas the
number in 2011 was 440, according to Abortion Supervisory Committee records.

Mrs Hopkins said there is a chance the abortion service in Thames might be shut down.

“That is why they [pro-abortion groups] have come out and tried to disrupt what we do. Their aim is to shut us down,” said Mrs Hopkins.

ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak  admitted as much in an interview on the Sunday Morning programme on Radio New Zealand aired on October 16.

“I think the best solution is for the Thames-Coromandel District Council to revoke both permits and just let the people who want to access abortion in Thames . . . just go about their business without any trouble from protesters,” she said.

Ms Bellamak said their protest started when the Green Party convenor in Thames-Coromandel, Scott Summerfield, “got sick of seeing Voice for Life people out there every week”. This was when the group called Stop Abortion Harassment in Thames was formed.

RNZ also interviewed Otago University law professor Dr Selene Mize, who said holding placards and standing outside the hospital does not constitute harassment.

“It would be a public nuisance issue if they were blocking the footpath or they were preventing other people from going about their business but it doesn’t sound like that is happening. And there is no use-by date for protest,” she explained.

VFL president Bernard Moran said the move by ALRANZ and the Green Party was part of a strategy that their counterparts implemented in Britain and Australia.

Pro-choice politicians in the two countries introduced bills establishing no-protest zones around abortion clinics. Such bills were passed into law in Victoria and Tasmania. This means that in those states, pro-life groups can only protest outside a 150-metre safe zone.

“[The law in] Tasmania particularly was driven by the Green Party. [Green MP] Jan Logie would have been, I would imagine, contacting her Green counterparts,” Mr Moran said.

Ms Logie, who attended an August meeting in Thames organised by pro-choice people, spoke of the possibility of a debate on whether New Zealand should introduce a no-protest zone around abortion clinics, similar to the Australian examples.

Mr Moran said VFL has learned from the experiences of Australian pro-life groups through Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins, a Democratic Labor Party member of the Victorian Legislative Council.

“We will be rethinking our strategy in terms of posters. We would make them (protests) much more welcoming to women,” Mr Moran said.

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