Over the course of November, everyone in The Netherlands will receive an anti-abortion brochure in their mailbox. In it, women who want an abortion are portrayed as thoughtless and in need of help, as if they could not make an informed choice by themselves. The European Humanist Federation (EHF) and its Member Humanistisch Verbond (Dutch Humanist Association) consider this massive folder campaign is a step back in time and an alarming sign of the growing pressure on abortion practice and rights in The Netherlands.
Since 1984, Dutch legislation recognises abortion as a women’s right. If a woman is unintentionally pregnant, her right to make a choice freely and to count on independent help must be guaranteed. The Government must protect that freedom by providing independent health assistance.
However, there is a growing pressure on abortion rights by religious-based organisations that try to place abortion practice under a negative light and who are focused on reversing the acquired liberties. Beyond anti-abortion campaigns, what is more concerning is the increasing wave of harassment and intimidation of women by anti-abortion protesters that takes place at the entrances of abortion clinics. Whilst everyone has the right to demonstrate freely, women should be able to visit the clinic safely and undisturbed. In addition to these types of harassment, medical assistance provided to women who consider an abortion is now mainly in the hands of an organisation that is affiliated to the Association for the Protection of the Unborn Child.
In this context, Humanistisch Verbond campaigns before decision-makers and duty-bearers, municipalities and media to raise awareness and promote the so-called “buffer zones” around abortion clinics. In other words, the establishment of an exclusion zone around abortion clinics that anti-abortion protesters cannot enter – and thus withstanding the harassment and intimidation waged on women. Proven effective in countries like England, Australia and Canada, the campaign is beginning to pay off: the Dutch Minister of Health and two out of the fourteen abortion clinics in the country now have a buffer zone.
As part of the campaign, Humanistisch Verbond has designed a special mailbox sticker for everyone who does not want to receive anti-abortion advertisement in their mailbox. So far, thousands of stickers have been distributed.
The EHF affirms that autonomy and freedom of choice are intrinsically linked to the dignity of the human being. The international community recognizes sexual and reproductive rights as fundamental human rights that protect some of the most important and intimate aspects of our lives. The EHF strongly condemns intimidation of women who seek to exercise their fundamental rights.