Protesters attack anti-abortion 'harassment'
Pro-choice protestors are demonstrating in Thames in support of abortion patients, who they say face ongoing harassment from anti-abortion campaigners.
The pro-life group gathers outside Thames Hospital every Friday when abortion services take place.
"Women experience harassment as intrusive and intimidating, even if protesters are silent," says Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) president, Terry Bellamak.
She says that anti-abortion protests are another form of the harassment all women experience.
More than 40 people attended a Thursday night meeting to take action. Green MP Jan Logie told them New Zealand needed to decriminalise abortion, which is still regulated as a crime.
"Both the current law and the anti-abortion protests are based on a lack of trust for women," Ms Logie said.
Rachel Harrison, a longtime sexual violence prevention worker in Thames, says family violence and anti-abortion protests are "both are about trying to control women".
Pro-choice demonstrators (Supplied)
Scott Summerfield, an ALRANZ member and local organiser, said it was positive that the Thames community - which has endured the harassment and intimidation for many years - has decided to take action.
Because the Bay of Plenty District Health Board does not provide a surgical abortion service, many Bay of Plenty women must travel to Thames for care, along with women from Waikato DHB.
Last year, 180 abortions were performed in Thames out of a national total of 13,155. Waikato District Health Board says it has received complaints the protests are distressing to patients and their families, but pro-choice advocates say little action has been taken and the protests continue.