Prayer does work from 150m away but must be seen


Controversy continued Wednesday, at the Health Committee’s hearing into The Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill.

Prayer, intimidation and breaching the Bill of Rights were all topics considered by the Committee.

Addressing the issue of intimidation, Pro-life organisation, Right to Life provided evidence to the Committee that there had been no complaints of harassment made to the district health boards since 2019.

Spokesman for Right to Life, Philip Creed, told the Committee he had accumulated the evidence through the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

“So if there are no complaints, no intimidation or harassment, what justification is there to address a problem that does not exist,” questioned Creed.

However, Labour MP Sarah Pallet (Ilam) asked Creed whether prayers were still effective, even if they were from over 150m away.

Creed said they were, but needed to be “in a public place where people can see us.”

He agreed that no woman going to an abortion clinic should be harassed and admitted that in the past people had said terrible things.

“I disagree with that totally,” Creed said.

However, former St Bede’s College Christchurch old boy MP, Matt Doocey (National Waimakariri) who voted in favour of the abortion clinic safe zones, said he did so after being confronted by “misogynistic vitriol” in his office.

Doocey told the Health Committee hearing submissions into the bill that he was scared by the men who approached him in his office urging him to vote against the bill.

“I am a pretty simple guy from north Canterbury, but I recall during the abortion debate, I had a pretty open-door policy,” said Doocey, who voted both for the safe spaces bill in March, and Abortion Legislation Bill last year.

“I take the point of the pro-life movement, which I respect but don’t necessarily agree with, but … why I support this was not concern about the pro-life movement but a group of men who would turn up individually to my office.”

“Their argument against was just misogynistic vitriol about women not being trusted, not trusted with their bodies, saying they don’t know what is right for them, can’t make up their mind, and that really blew me away.”

“I am a pretty robust guy but that kind of scared me, and I just wonder if this is more about that group of people and the potential risk they pose.”

Doocey’s comments came in response to several submitters who said the bill impacts seriously on the right to free speech and protest.

Mhairi Everitt of the Otago University Students Association told the Committee that it was well known there were always anti-abortion protesters outside Dunedin Hospital.

“It is a traumatising process, no matter what the outcome.”

She said the Students’ Association acknowledged the bill would breach the Bill of Rights Act but said protester behaviour was often violent, and that pro-life protesters often used violent images.

Everitt said that even non-violent protest could be felt as violent.

She told the committee that a person’s right to free speech should not come before the right for people to seek healthcare.


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