Politicians line up to fight anti-abortion, anti-choice campaigners

Parliamentarians from both opposition and coalition parties expressed concerns about increasingly intimidating anti-abortion, anti-choice demonstrations at abortion clinics in the Netherlands. Oppositions parties GroenLinks, PvdA, SP, PvdD and 50Plus and ruling party VVD issued a joint call to protect women's right to safely choose abortion, NOS and RTL Nieuws report.

"I never would have thought that in 2019 I still had to defend women's right to abortion", D66 parliamentarian Pia Dijkstra said during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday on the increasing demonstrations at abortion clinics. "This is not the seventies of the last century." This anti-abortion sentiment is blowing over from the US, where some states recently implemented considerably stricter abortion laws, and it is increasingly compromising the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, she said.

Politicians must stand firmly behind women's right to choose what happens to their bodies, according to GroenLinks parliamentarian Corinne Ellemeet. She and Dijkstra both lashed out at FvD leader Thierry Baudet and his "boreal talk about how women's rights would be the demise of Europe". Incidentally, no FvD members were present at the debate.

Other government parties also expressed concern over women being harassed at abortion clinics. This debate is needed to put an end to the ongoing actions around the 14 abortion clinics in the Netherlands, VVD parliamentarian Ockje Tellegen said. CDA parliamentarian Joba van den Berg: "Hindering is different from demonstrating."

The PVV called the demonstrations distasteful, but believes that as long as no violence is used, politicians don't need to intervene. 

Christian party SGP, the fiercest anti-abortion party in the Tweede Kamer, thinks that the other MPs are making a mountain out of a mole hill. According to party leader Kees van der Staaij, the demonstrators at the clinics are "counselors" who are generally extremely conscientious and offer help. Every week a few women accept this offer of help and refrain from abortion, he said.

Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health consulted with the clinics and the 14 municipalities they are located in. The clinics report an increase in demonstrations, now getting a few a week. They also reports women coming in upset on a regular basis, because they were harassed on the streets. But almost no complaints are submitted to the municipality. 

The Minister previously said that he finds it very unfortunate that women are being intimidated at a time when they are already vulnerable. But he does not want to mess with the right to demonstrate. It is largely up to the municipalities to manage demonstrations, he said. They can, for example, implement buffer zones around abortion clinics, inside which no demonstrators are allowed. In addition to buffer zones, a buddy system is also being worked on, in which women are met outside the clinic and guided in.

Many parliamentarians called it crazy that something like a buddy system is needed. According to them, this proves that the right to abortion is under pressure.