Demonstrations in support of women in America are taking place again today at Dam Square in Amsterdam. Last weekend, the US Supreme Court overturned previous rulings that covered the right to abortion nationwide. It puts abortion laws back in the hands of the states, which has already led dozens of states to declare the pregnancy illegal.
Even before the Supreme Court’s ruling, a heated debate over abortion erupted in the United States. In the Netherlands, too, stakeholders note that debate has erupted on the subject.
The tone has changed
Rob Benschop, director of abortion clinics in Amsterdam and Heemstedt, sees anti-abortion protesters in his clinics almost every week. “The protesters are becoming more militant and aggressive. I think that’s coming from America. We were praying in groups of people, but the tone has changed.”
Some protestors follow and call out to women or attack them when they try to enter. Banners are displayed with bloody images, Bensop says. “We have the right to demonstrate in the Netherlands, that’s fine, but I think these activists are not here. If you want to express your opinion, stand in the town square or in Maliveld.”
Benschop notes that arguments often arise between demonstrators and passers-by. “We usually see conflicts between people who are involved and go beyond activists. It’s not always friendly,” he says.
Interest is growing
Anti-abortion organizations are seeing growing interest in the Netherlands. According to annual reports, their websites are getting more visitors and the number of donations from individuals and organizations is increasing.
Jolinde Hooglander, 20, from Gouda is a member of Prolife Europe. An organization that claims to be ‘pro-life’, not anti-abortion. “I got really involved after a baby in my area was stillborn after 25 weeks,” says Hooglander. “After a while, I was approached by someone from ProLife down the street, and I joined them.”
Hooglander says stricter legislation in the US is encouraging. Abortion has not been talked about in the Netherlands for a long time. Because of what happened in America, it seems that it can be talked about again here. I don’t expect the rules to change in the Netherlands, but the hope is that if the changes in America are the same, you can see that change is possible in such a big country.”
According to Benshop, the problem lies in the misinformation that some activists spread in front of the door at his clinics. “I have sometimes pretended to be an ordinary passerby. Then you hear the greatest nonsense from those opponents, which is disgusting. They bring statistics about the number of suicides among women after abortion, for example, which is completely false. And based on nothing. We as clinicians – of course – all the rules. must be observed, but they are allowed to sell the greatest folly.”
Jolinde Hooglander doesn’t want to protest at the abortion clinic in front of the door. “I think that’s very doubly so. On the one hand, it’s good for women to hear at the last minute that there are other options, but it’s very serious.”
She takes to the streets with other prolife youth to strike up conversations with passers-by. “For example, we learn in lessons all about the limit until you have an abortion. We use that information in conversations on the street. We talk to people and ask them what their point of view is. Our goal is not to persuade. To convince, but to exchange ideas.”
Young people in particular seem to be open to such dialogue. “Older generations have experienced the struggle for abortion rights,” says Hooglander. “Young people are often open-minded and open to discussion.”
NOSop3 previously explained how access to abortion increases or decreases globally:
What if America Bans Abortion?
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