Anti-abortion activist sues Utrecht for right to confront women at clinic

An anti-abortion protester filed a lawsuit against Utrecht because the municipality does not allow protesters within 100 meters of the clinic. He wants to stand right in front of the clinic to “reach women better,” he said to RTL Nieuws.

“I don’t receive permission from the municipality to carry out my message in front of the clinic in Utrecht, while I do get to do that in Rotterdam and Zwolle,” Joop van Ooijen, founder of political party Jezus Leeft!, said to the broadcaster. According to him, it is “terrible” that the fetus does not get a say in the abortion. 

Van Ooijen stands in front of the abortion clinic in Zwolle once a month and at least once a week in Rotterdam. He wants to do the same in Utrecht, but the buffer zone the municipality implemented to protect women from harassers prevents it. “I’m here to save people’s lives. Then I have to be where it happens and not 100 meters away,” he said. He says he doesn’t harass women.

The abortion clinic in Utrecht, Vrelinghuis, told RTL Nieuws that the number of protesters increased significantly in recent years. “It’s a battle between freedom of expression and invading our clients’ privacy,” a spokesperson said. “Everyone is entitled to an opinion. But we don’t support already vulnerable women being harassed. That’s why we will continue to keep protesters away from the entrance.”

Anti-abortion protests around clinics have grown so intimidating that municipalities and random citizens are taking action. The Samen na de Kliniek foundation, for example, set up a buddy system to help women get into the clinic if they need it. These abortion buddies currently mainly work in Rotterdam and The Hague. Twelve buddies are training in Utrecht, the foundation said to RTL Nieuws.

The buddies meet women at the subway station or bus stop and go to the clinic together. The buddies don’t ask questions and don’t push their clients to talk. They simply offer a shield between the women and the protesters and support the women in any way they can. 

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