A sociologist and gender studies expert told the Grapevine that an anti-abortion group which has recently gained attention is engaging in harassment of women.
Vísir reports that a group of four have recently begun to assemble in front of the Women’s Ward of the National Hospital every Tuesday. What all of them have in common is they all belong to the Catholic Church of Iceland, and they gather to publicly pray for an end to abortion.
At the time the reporter caught up with them, two of them were wearing hats emblazoned with the logo “Stop Abortion”, and one of them – Denis O’Leary, a Catholic priest with Maríukirkja Church – told reporters that he hoped with time people would see how wrong abortion is, “like with slavery, for example.”
Steinunn Rögnvaldsdóttir, a sociologist and gender studies expert who spoke to Grapevine on the matter, told us the group’s actions are “degrading towards women and a form of harassment”, and not something Icelanders would tolerate in other contexts.
“Would we tolerate a group like this standing by the entrance where you go to get HIV-tested?,” Steinunn told us. “Or more basically, would we tolerate a group that was saying prayers for people that need to have cardiac catheterisation because their behavior led to them needing the procedure? I can see no difference between the two. Both are procedures to improve the lives of the ones seeking this health service. It’s legal, and it is safe. And it should stay that way.”
Steinunn believes the hospital should not stand idly by, either.
“I think the hospital administration should seriously discuss this situation and monitor the group – as I believe they have been doing,” she said. “[The hospital’s] actions should be in the best interests of their patients. I think the right of patients in a vulnerable situation to be free from harassment trumps the right to free speech on this specific spot. And lastly, I do think the laws about abortions in Iceland should be changed and abortions should be available upon a request; you should not have to apply for it and cross your fingers for the goodwill of the staff or the system.”