by Terry Bellamak, ALRANZ President

In a recent post on RTL’s website Ken Orr accuses ALRANZ, by name, of “conducting a campaign of 40 days harassment of those praying in these vigils. There has been verbal abuse, theft of signs and prayer material.”

For Wellington at least, this is pure fantasy.

I have been at several counter protests this year outside the hospital in Wellington, and been in close contact with the organisers of others. We have not seen anything like the kind of confrontation Ken writes about. In fact, I have been surprised and pleased at the degree of amity between the two groups of protesters.

The day we took treats and gifts to the Te Mahoe abortion services clinic both groups were quite large. They did not interfere with one another in any way. At one point a random angry anti-choicer verbally abused us, but he had nothing to do with the other protesters. When we broke for the day my friend Sam approached the anti-choice protesters to thank them for coming out and exercising their right of free speech. As I walked away we all smiled and waved and said goodbye.

Another day, a random person who said he was angry about religion verbally abused the anti-choice protesters. He was not with us, and I doubt he had any feelings one way or another on the subject of abortion; he was just angry. The pro-choice protesters tried to get him to leave, and checked in with the anti-choice protesters to make sure they were OK.

None of this peaceful, supportive behaviour should surprise anyone. It’s the Kiwi way.

So why is Ken stirring up drama with accusations of harassment?

Is he trying to import the acrimony of the abortion debate in the States into Aotearoa?

Does Ken dream of a New Zealand where right-wingers can pass laws restricting access to abortion at will, as they do in Texas?

Is he worried that if his followers come to realise pro-choice folks are not demons, and have good points about preventing harm to women and other pregnant people from illegal, unsafe abortion and not forcing pregnant people to endure childbirth against their will, they will soften their stance to something more like, “I wouldn’t have an abortion, but everyone should decide for themselves” as other religious people have done?

Does Ken dream of a New Zealand where people who support abortion and other reproductive rights are sometimes murdered by “pro-life” activists? ON EDIT: You know, I don’t think Ken dreams of a New Zealand quite so much like the States as that, because that would make Ken a monster. Ken is not a monster. He’s just a guy who feels compelled to compel others to live by his religious code.

Such dreams sound like nightmares for Aotearoa.