Abortion protests ‘a failure’

Anti-abortion protesters conducting prayers across the street from Albury's abortion clinic.
Anti-abortion protesters conducting prayers across the street from Albury's abortion clinic.

A DOCTOR at Albury’s Fertility Control Clinic says abortions have increased at the centre since right-to-life protesters began staging weekly vigils there.

Dr Kathy Lewis travels from Melbourne every week to run the Albury clinic and said members of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants may be sabotaging their own efforts to make women reconsider a termination.

“In my experience they’re not turning people away,” she said.

Dr Lewis said the clinic’s bookings were up “because everybody knows we’re here”, though she would not provide figures.

Dr Lewis said the anti-abortionists were harassing her clients and breaching their privacy by filming them entering the clinic.

She said she had her own footage of members of the group “chasing people across the street”.

“They have backed off a little bit but I think their very presence is very intimidating, it makes women feel under threat,” Dr Lewis said.

“A lot of them are a lot more stressed, I spend a lot more time reassuring them.”

The anti-abortion group call themselves “side-walk counsellors” and want to distribute information and provide advice to women considering a termination.

However Dr Lewis, who is trained in clinical psychology, said women at the clinic had all the support and information they needed to help make their decision.

She said she talked to every woman who was considering an abortion to ensure they were absolutely sure about their decision, and would refer them to a clinical psychologist if she had any doubts.

“If someone says ‘I’m not willing to talk about it’, I say ‘I really have to know’,” Dr Lewis said.

“I really have to make sure they’re not coerced into their decision.

“The last thing I would do is put someone through a procedure they’re not sure about.”

Asked if she would consider changing the time or venue of the clinic to throw off the protesters, Dr Lewis said it was something that had already been attempted without success.

“I’ve done that before and all they do is ring up and pretend they’re patients to find out what day the clinic is running,” she said.

Dr Lewis said she appreciated the efforts of a group of Albury students who are organising a demonstration against the presence of the right-to-life group tomorrow.

“Yes I really appreciate it, it goes to show that there’s that feeling out there,” she said.

“If you only hear one side of the story you start doubting your decisions.

“The reasons people choose to have terminations are varied, they may still be at school, they may have had a baby six or seven months ago, or they may be 45 years old with teenage children.”