Create buffer zones for protesters around abortion clinics: Dutch Health Minister

Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health thinks it is a "good idea" for municipalities to keep pro-life protesters at an appropriate distance from abortion clinics. He supports municipalities who want to protect the women going to these clinics by creating buffer zones around the clinics. "I am in contact with the municipalities and the clinics about that", the Minister said, AD reports.

According to De Jonge, anti-abortion protesters regularly treat women who go to terminate a pregnancy "very maliciously and tastelessly". The Netherlands' right to demonstrate is a great asset, he said. "But that should never lead to intimidation. Women should never have to explain to a stranger at the clinic entrance why they are going there. Definitely not at such a difficult time in their lives!"

Over the past months the 14 abortion clinics in the Netherlands increasingly received complaints about the aggression protesters show to vulnerable women, Gerrit Zomerdijk, director of Gynaikon Clinics, said to AD. His organization runs two abortion clinics in Rotterdam and Roermand. "I'm also hearing stories from colleagues", he said. At the entrance of clinics women are told that they are "murderers" and that they will "regret their decision", he said. Protesters displaying posters showing fetuses and handing out leaflets with anti-abortion views is the order of the day. "We have different groups at our door, several days a week."

The Humanistisch Verbond - an association that advocates for free choices about life, thinking, love, and death - wants to see these buffer zones implemented as soon as possible, spokesperson Fiona Fortuin said to the newspaper. "We have been working on this topic for a while and found out that aggressive protests are becoming normal to the clinics. While that can be different. Because demonstration is allowed, but it is now affecting women's sense of safety. That must change and all municipalities involved can arrange it locally."

One of the organizations that organize protest at abortion clinics is Stirezo Pro-Life. Its website states: "Guarding at abortion centers is a right and should continue to be so". Spokesperson Hugo Bos told AD that news about activists being aggressive is "a political frame and part of a fake news campaign". "Our aggression level is zero. We prefer to offer women help", Bos said to the newspaper. "But with a ban on demonstrations or the national establishment of buffer zones, we see no other choice than a confrontational approach. It is 100 percent certain that the Minister wants to put an end to our meetings. But that doesn't detract from the truth: abortion is murder. And those clinics abuse women in need."

The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, will be discussing the issue of protesters at abortion clinics in the near future. GroenLinks parliamentarian Corinne Ellemeet thinks that the debate is desperately needed. "Abortion is a growing taboo and the hard core of opponents is getting bigger. Minister De Jonge must stand up for these women. Supporting national buffer zones is only a first step", she said to AD.