“Abortion buddies” to help women past protestors
As of this week, women visiting abortion clinics in Rotterdam and The Hague will be able to request the help of an “abortion buddy” to escort them past protestors and into the clinic. The “buddy” project is an initiative of the feminist platform De Bovengrondse and is supported by the humanist group the Humanistisch Verbond. Right now, there are about 20 volunteers for the pilot project.
Abortion protests increasing
If there is a genuine need for abortion buddies, the project will be expanded to other Dutch cities with abortion clinics. The decision to start this project was due to the increasing number of anti-abortion protests being held outside clinics. This is despite the fact that last year, a majority in the Dutch House of Representatives supported municipalities setting up a buffer zone around abortion clinics.
In Utrecht, despite discussion with the municipality and the police, intimidation and harassment has not subsided. Similarly, in Rotterdam, protestors are still berating women visiting the clinic. In Enschede, the number of protests has even increased and in Amsterdam, where previously no protests were held, the first one has taken place.
According to the director of Humanistisch Verbond, Christa Compas, women are judged and intimidated, “They get foetus dolls shoved into their hands and protestors show them photos of what, according to them, happens during an abortion”.
Safe assistance for women
The “buddies” are not activists and will not ask women going to the clinic about their pregnancy or abortion. They are simply there, should a woman like their assistance, to walk with them to the clinic and stop them from being harassed. 22 buddies were selected from 3.500 people who applied for the project. These buddies have been trained and have signed a code of conduct.
The idea behind the buddy project is two-fold, namely both supporting women with unwanted pregnancies in exercising their rights and also making the pro-choice movement more visible, according to project coordinator Eva de Goeij. Women can request a buddy via a website created especially for the project.
At first, the director of the abortion clinic in Rotterdam was hesitant when it came to the abortion buddies. He doesn’t want the entrance to the clinic to turn into a “war zone” or have “polarisation” on his doorstep. “Clinics are there to provide careful and safe assistance to women who have chosen to have an abortion," he said. "This should take place without hindrance.”
The guarantee that the buddies will act in a neutral manner not enter into talks with protestors has reassured him for the time being.