Women who wish to enter an abortion clinic in the Netherlands are sometimes harassed or intimidated by anti-abortion protesters. Through the Samen naar de Kliniek Foundation, they can engage an “abortion companion”, that is, someone with whom they can go to the clinic together. Utrecht is the third city to take part in the initiative.
The Abortion Companion initiative has only been around for a few years, however the Samen naar de Kliniek Foundation project is already active in several Dutch cities. After The Hague and Rotterdam, Utrecht will be the third city in which the Foundation will spread its wings. “We can use an online form to match someone to one of our volunteers, who will accompany you to the abortion clinic,” says Emma Buckles, who is herself an abortion friend and foundation secretary. On our website, you fill in some personal information and also indicate when your appointment will be. Then we’ll see who we can contact at that moment.
The Friends Project was launched in 2019, then under the name De Bovengrondse, because the founders noted that the anti-abortion movement had a very strong resonance in the Netherlands. “We saw that more and more protesters came to the various abortion clinics in the Netherlands and harassed the women on their way to the clinic.”
In moments like these, Buckles says, things can get tricky sometimes. “It’s so scary when others say you’re a killer, for example. Friends can then serve as lightning rods for protesters. The only thing a woman should think about is going to the clinic.”
Buckles emphasizes that abortion partners are not counselors or psychologists. “Our volunteers are carefully selected and trained to direct someone to the clinic in the best possible way.” They do not help people decide on their pregnancy, according to her, this is the task of other organizations. “We especially want people not to feel anxious or intimidated when they come face to face with protesters on their way to the clinic.”
Training by experts
Currently, 13 cities in the Netherlands have abortion clinics. The organization aspires to have a pool of volunteers in each of those cities. Utrecht was the next most logical step for the organization. “The city is fairly central among the other cities we’re already working in, so we can match our volunteers to someone faster.”
Aspiring volunteers can report to the organization until Saturday, April 30th. However, not everyone can become a friend and start. “We choose friends with a certificate of good conduct (VOG). They must live within a five-kilometre radius of the clinic and be flexible in their spread. We do not provide the training ourselves, but we facilitate it. The training is always conducted by experts, such as the experts of the association Dutch Doctors for Abortion (NGvA).
Buffer zones against protesters
To keep protesters away from abortion clinics, some cities in the Netherlands have created a buffer zone. In this way, Dutch cities want to prevent protesters from getting too close to women.
Utrecht has already established such a buffer zone. However, we see that protesters can often get around the buffer zone by waiting for people at the edge of that zone, such as a train station or a particular bus stop. It helps that they are no longer allowed to park in the clinic itself, but you notice that they are moving to strategic locations.