An unwanted American export: invasive anti-choice tactics

Taking a dick move out of the American anti-choicer playbook, protesters at Australian abortion clinics have started filming women as they enter and leave clinic buildings. Doctors have called on police to intervene, but police can’t intervene because the protesters aren’t breaking the law.

Protesters say that the decision to videotape outside clinics isn’t about shaming women, but about protecting themselves. The Age reports:

Tanya O’Brien, of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants group that regularly protests outside abortion clinics, admitted that members of her group were filming outside clinics but said it was for their own protection in case they were attacked or subjected to allegations of wrongdoing.

You know what, Tanya O’Brien of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants group, don’t come the raw prawn (that’s Australian slang for “I call bullshit”).

This isn’t about protecting the good name of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants (and seriously, for the love of all that is good in this world, could you have picked a more sanctimonious name?). It’s about intimidating women and threatening their privacy. It’s about discouraging women from going to these clinics. It’s about making abortion inaccessible in lieu of making it illegal.

Doctors who work in the clinics that are being targeted agree. One doctor, who practices at an East Melbourne clinic, said that “patients were distressed by the practice and concerned about what the protesters were doing with the photos and footage of them.” Another said that “the practice was also provoking women and their partners to respond, creating greater risk of conflict outside clinics.”

But it’s not illegal – not yet. The Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission has called on the government of the southern state to prohibit the use of cameras and similar technology “to intimidate, demean or harass people,” but nothing has been done so far. And as long as it’s not illegal, there’s very little police can do to protect the privacy of the women who are seeking reproductive health care at those clinics.

And it’s not just in Australia that US-style anti-choice tactics are catching on. The Guardian reported last week that in the UK, Helpers of God’s Precious Infants had been protesting outside an abortion clinic in Kent – led by an American.

America has exported some great things to Australia. Oreos were a winner. Big Red gum, which was once a form of currency in my Sydney high school, can now be bought on the open market (if you know where to go). Thanks to the popularity of exports The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Australian political humour is thriving! But this particular export isn’t one Americans should be sending abroad – and it’s one that Australians definitely do not want.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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