What our volunteers have said about getting involved:
I wanted to do something tangible to support women exercising their right to control what happens to their bodies, and to make a visible stand for reproductive rights.
I feel very strongly about the right to reproductive choice, unfortunately I’m usually not able to attend rallies as I have to work. But I had the time available so when I heard about this I thought it was a great opportunity to support the cause and the people visiting the clinic on those days.
I live near the Greenslopes clinic and have seen the anti-choicers out the front a number of times and always wished that there was a way for me to show support for the women attending the clinic who had to deal with the anti-choicers and their hateful messages. When the opportunity to volunteer as a clinic escort arose, I jumped at the chance.
It is so important to me that women coming in for procedures that they have decided to have are not intimidated, shamed or vilified in any way at all. I am an avid feminist and pro choice activist and I was more than happy to use my time trying to make sure women felt they had support when coming in for a procedure that can be quite confronting and controversial.
It is a cause I am passionate about, and our current legislation is still in the dark ages.
The idea of people being picketed whilst accessing medical services makes me super mad – I wanted to do my bit to help!
Talking to the other volunteers was fantastic. I’ve always been strongly pro-choice but found it difficult to discuss my views with others as abortion is unfortunately still such a taboo topic. Being able to openly talk in depth about the current issues around access to abortion with the friendly, intelligent and passionate volunteers was such a positive experience and gave me a lot of hope for the future. The clinic staff were also so welcoming and supportive. I feel like volunteering gave me a small insight into what it might be like to visit the clinic as a patient and knowing now how lovely the staff are, would make the process a bit less daunting. Volunteering has also made me feel better equipped to be able to support my friends, should they ever need to visit a clinic in the future.
When patients approached the building and weren’t sure where to enter, I was able to be a friendly face that directed them. They often seemed relieved that there was someone who wasn’t judging or disapproving, who was friendly and trying to help them out 🙂
Meeting other volunteers, and seeing women smile gratefully when they exited the clinic, they obviously felt a bit safer.
We only had limited contact with the patients as they were walking in/out of the clinic but it felt good to do little things like be a welcoming face, help people with the gate/door, or sometimes just listen to the support people (partners/friends) who came downstairs during appointments and wanted to chat. The clinic staff were lovely. On their way out at the end of the day, the staff would often say thank you to us volunteers for the support. This was very unexpected but it was lovely to know that they appreciated us being there. Before volunteering, I hadn’t really considered the impact the anti-choicers had on the staff and not just the patients. It felt good to give the staff a friendly and supportive smile at the end of the day before they had to drive out of the carpark and dodge the anti-choicers standing at the driveway praying at them. The only negative part of the whole day was of course the anti-choicers. On the day I volunteered, we didn’t have any loud/confronting protestors (i.e with signs, flyers or approaching patients) turn up but around 2pm a number of anti-choicers arrived and quickly set themselves up around the perimeter of the clinic. Although these elderly people were only pacing back and forwards silently praying with their rosaries, it surprised me how intimidating their presence was. A few of them stood on the driveway, getting in the way of the support people who needed to drive in to pick up patients after their appointment. I really hope that safe access zones are introduced in the near future so patients (and staff) no longer have to be harassed whilst arriving or leaving the clinic.
The anti-choicers present on my shift were not very vocal, they were more focused on praying and handing out flyers (aka they didn’t verbally harass anyone thankfully). It’s still very disconcerting for patients to attend an appointment that they often would already be somewhat uncomfortable or nervous about and encounter people trying to convince them they are making the wrong decision. I think the volunteer shifts are a great idea and I would definitely come back and do it again.