News State NSW News Revealed: Worst ways women are harassed at Sydney abortion clinic

Revealed: Worst ways women are harassed at Sydney abortion clinic

abortion nsw exclusion zones
Supporters of a failed Greens bill to decriminalise abortion in NSW last year. Photo: AAP
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The window of a Sydney abortion clinic has been smashed, women and staff have been threatened, and terminations have been compared to the Holocaust, a trove of incident reports reveals.

NSW Police reports from between 2005 and 2014, obtained under freedom of information laws and released to The New Daily, reveal the extent that picketers harass patients at The Private Clinic in Surry Hills.

In one 2011 incident reported to police a man in his 50s allegedly bashed on the front door and yelled: “I am going to kill you. You are murdering babies. I am going to come back to kill you all.”

It comes as NSW parliament debates introducing 150-metre exclusion zones around abortion clinics to protect patient privacy and safety.

The upper house is on Thursday expected to vote on the bill, co-sponsored by Labor’s Penny Sharpe and Trevor Khan of the Nationals.

The Private Clinic reproductive health centre provides terminations, IUD contraception, and vasectomies.

A police report from 2009 said a white male aged about 70 called patients “baby killers” while wearing a sign that said: “Stop the holocaust, abortion kills babies.”

The window was smashed in 2011, causing $600 in damage.

A man in his 30s entered the clinic in one 2013 incident, and pointed a 15cm long wooden stake at the receptionist.

“How many babies have you killed today?” the man said, according to the police report.

Patients have been obstructed from entering and been asked to leave via the back entrance to avoid protesters. According to one police report a patient was followed down the street.

When approached by police in 2014 for harassing passers-by, a protester responded: “This place is the devil.”

Police told the woman they respected her right to peacefully protest, but that she was not to harass or intimidate people.

There were 13 anti-abortion protesters picketing the clinic in one report.

Paul Nattrass, who has been practice manager at The Private Clinic for 18 years, said protesters had a long-term effect on patients.

“It’s one thing that a lot of women will probably remember more than the procedure itself,” Mr Nattrass told The New Daily.

“I can say with 100 per cent certainty that on days when we don’t have protesters, I just almost never see anyone arrive at the clinic who is visibly distressed.

“I’m sure they don’t want to be at the clinic, and they’re sad about having the termination, but that sadness doesn’t really show itself in the form of tears or visible distress.

“However, when protesters are outside, I’d say probably a quarter of our patients are coming in who are visibly trembling and breaking down in tears when a receptionist gives them a hug or asks them if they’re okay.”

Mr Nattrass said the police reports did not represent the full scale of the issue.

He said the law was onerous on both women and police in dealing with harassment at clinics. Women often do not want to provide a statement, or do not want to wait around to do so.

Nine News last week reported on an assault at the same clinic, with CCTV showing an anti-abortion protester brawl with the partner of a woman accessing the services inside.

Buzzfeed News on Wednesday reported a Chinese-Australian woman, who was volunteering as a patient escort, was offered help with “immigration problems, legal problems, medical problems” and handed anti-abortion literature as she entered the clinic.

The literature, signs and sandwich boards are sometimes filled with misinformation about risks of abortion.

The New Daily has contacted Family Life International.

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