UPDATE 31 OCT: The police have informed us that they have tried, in conjunction with our web hosting service, to recover the computer logs for the date and time the email threat we received was sent, in an effort to trace the sender, but that the settings for saving site info were set too short and this information was no longer on the host’s servers. (We’ve been advised not to give out more detail on this.) Those settings have since been changed so the relevant information will be retained for longer. The police are pursuing the source of the threat via the email address that came with it, but they aren’t hopeful because the message came in via a form on our Web site, rather than in an actual email, meaning any address could have been inserted. The detective in charge told us the e-mail address attached to the message appears to be false. So, even though it looks like the source of the threat will not be found, we are grateful to the police for pursuing this, and for keeping us informed of their progress.

UPDATE 19 OCT: Labour’s Maryan Street and National MP Paul Hutchison have spoken out about the threat. A further update on that: the police, to whom we reported this threat after it came in (i.e. on Wednesday), are following it up with no further info on what, if anything, they have found. We also informed the SDHB’s management at the same time.


ALRANZ spokesperson Alison McCulloch appeared on the TVNZ programme Close-Up on Tuesday night  opposite Southlanders for Life spokesman Dr. Norman MacLean on SfL’s effort to get the names of doctors and other healthcare professionals working in the newly opened Southland Clinic.

There’s already a strong atmosphere of fear and intimidation in Southland over this issue, and Dr. MacLean is surely the peaceful man he says he is. But on this issue, there is simply no doubt that publicizing names and escalating rhetoric is part of an atmosphere of intimidation and bullying.

QoT has blogged about the TV thing (thanks QoT!)  and we’ve had some supportive comments. In addition, the poll question asked of viewers came out more than 80% in favour of letting the health care workers keep their anonymity.

But, less than 24 hours after that went to air, ALRANZ received a message threatening violence against us and the clinic. Interestingly, the writer said, among other things, “The Doctor on Close Up said his group will be peaceful and not cause harm to anyone who works at the abortion clinic.But I am different.” The person went on to say that “people who work at the clinic are legitimate targets and so are you.” There was a bit of creepy stuff about “inside contacts” being helpful and the promise that we’d be hearing from him/her again “that is if your computer or in fact your premises are in one piece”.

Real or just noise, it’s part of the environment of intimidation and bullying that ALRANZ has been talking about, and that anti-abortionists deny, even as they fuel it with their requests for names accompanied by “reasons” that at, at best, are disingenuous. (Other doctors don’t mind being named; women need to be fully informed, etc etc)

At last, some of our elected reps are speaking out agains these tactics — the Greens and Labour women — and we’re grateful for their voices. But we need more! Bill English, the MP for Southland-Clutha and a well-known abortion opponent, has pretty much washed his hands of the whole business. He said on Close-Up that he wouldn’t expect anything the protesters did would break the law or stop people going about their lawful duties. He did say that health professionals involved in the service deserve “the same kind of ability to go to work without being hassled as we all have”, but didn’t offer any action to ensure that remains the case.

Notably, we’ve heard nothing from the church. It’s Father Vaughan Leslie who has been among the most vocal in Southland. According to an article in the Timaru Herald, Father Leslie, also a spokesman for Southlanders for Life, said they planned weekly demonstrations outside the clinic and to name those who work there.

Does Bishop Campbell support this? Responsible religious leaders need to speak out against these dangerous tactics.

ADDENDUM: We did pass this on to the authorities, who are following up. And the message did come with a name and email address, possibly false, and to which we did not ourselves reply.