You’ve probably noticed the increased presence of anti-choice protestors outside Wellington and Auckland hospitals. This began on Wednesday 5 March, the first day of Lent, as part of a campaign called “40 Days for Life.” This campaign originated in the United States and is being coordinated in New Zealand by Family Life International New Zealand (FLI).

The 40 Days for Life campaign centres on prayer, fasting and community outreach. Its proponents claim abortion hurts women and that women need to be “defended” from the practice. Their goal is to “end abortion.”

ALRANZ condemns this campaign. Abortion is a private medical decision and patients and clinical staff have the right to seek and provide medical services without being subject to harassment.

The right to seek safe and legal abortion is recognised across the world. New Zealand has been reprimanded for its restrictive abortion laws by the United Nations CEDAW Committee, an international declaration protecting the rights of women and recognised by 99 countries. Criminalising abortion does not reduce the number of abortions, it only increases the number of unsafe abortions.

While we support everyone’s right to express their views, patients have the right to accurate information about all of their pregnancy options. FLI and the 40 Days for Life campaign support so-called crisis pregnancy centres such as the John Paul II Centre for Life in Dunedin. It was recently revealed that these centres present false information about abortion. Supporting pregnant people is admirable, but lying about abortion undermines women’s autonomy. ALRANZ supports a woman’s right to access comprehensive information about all pregnancy options so that she is able to make the decision that is right for her.

The 40 Days for Life campaign is a continuation of the import of disturbing American anti-choice tactics into New Zealand. It stigmatises and shames people who are accessing and providing a necessary health service. It aims to shut down the provision of abortion services, access to which is a recognised human right and is sought by thousands of people in New Zealand every year.

The campaign is set to run in Wellington and Auckland until 13 April.  Volunteers have offered to organise escorts if the protestors violate their agreement with Wellington Hospital – get in touch with Coley if you’re able to help.