IT was meant to be a calm and rational debate about abortion but last night’s forum at St Matthew’s Church in Albury further revealed the deep division in the community.
About 100 people attended and many aired their personal views on abortion.
One woman spoke of her family’s own experience, after her daughter, who was in an abusive relationship and addicted to drugs, fell pregnant but then she had her pregnancy terminated.
“My daughter was having a psychotic breakdown and my father said to me is there any way we can do this without aborting the baby,” she said.
“I said ‘she has two children and her life, three lives for one?’
“It’s a choice I had to make and I will wear that.
“And it’s the only way we all got out of that situation alive.”
Anna von Marburg, a staunch pro-life advocate, said she was happy to take in any unwanted children.
Women’s Health Goulburn North East chief executive Susie Reid replied “the von Marburgs cannot adopt every child that needs fostering”.
Ms Reid said improved prevention and sexual health education should be a priority.
“We are black and white in our opinions but the grey area is prevention,” she said.
“We all want to see less unwanted pregnancies.”
Debate again turned to the protests outside the Englehardt Street clinic.
Retired obstetrician Peter Mourik said the problem was the protesters infringed on women’s privacy.
“In a small community like this the person walking into the clinic may be known to the protesters, they might be workmates, they might even be a relative,” Dr Mourik said.
He said the group, predominantly members of the Albury Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, was trying to enforce their beliefs on others.
“What they are doing is saying ‘you can’t do this because I don’t believe in it’,” he said.
Police Supt Elizabeth Stirton said the pro-life group had the right to assemble outside the clinic as long as they did not commit any offences.
Albury Helpers of God’s Precious Infants spokeswoman Peta Evans said the group’s members conducted themselves in an “exemplary fashion”.
“We have had thousands of what we call turnarounds, women who talk to us and decide, on their own, to keep their child,” she said.
Forum facilitator Elizabeth Reid, an international advocate for human rights, said she was pleased those present treated each other with respect and listened to the opposing views.
Archdeacon Peter Macleod-Miller said he never expected those present “to walk out hand in hand” but said the forum was an important step forward.