Interview: Dutch pro-life volunteer arrested outside abortion clinic tells her story

As abortion extremism sweeps Europe, crackdowns on peaceful pro-life activists have increased. In the UK, there have been multiple arrests outside of abortion clinics, including one woman who was arrested twice simply for praying silently—police actually asked her if she was praying in her head (fortunately, she has since received an apology). Arrests have taken place in several other countries, as well.

In the Netherlands, volunteers offering help outside of abortion clinics have already been arrested twice. One woman, a member of the Gereformeerde Gemeente (Netherlands Reformed) denomination, was arrested at the abortion clinic in Den Bosch while handing out leaflets and held for six hours on March 20. It is not illegal to stand alone outside a clinic and offer help to the women going in; the police concluded that she had been wrongfully arrested.

In 2021, a major study on demonstrations at abortion clinics in the Netherlands was published. The research found that if someone is present alone, it is considered to be a legal exercise of freedom of speech; different rules apply if there are several people present, at which point it is considered a demonstration. Abortion activists are unhappy with this status quo, as this gives volunteers the opportunity to persuade pregnant women to cancel their abortions and instead accept life-affirming help.

Almost weekly, women decide to cancel their abortions after reading the leaflets they are handed by volunteers. Abortion clinic staff have taken to calling the police immediately, despite the fact that this outreach is not a “demonstration” (or even a “protest,” properly understood, even though they have been dubbed “one-man protests”). On April 3, a second pro-life volunteer, Dirkje Slingerland (a member of the Protestant Church of the Netherlands), was arrested outside an abortion clinic in Utrecht. I interviewed her about her experience.

How long have you been involved in doing pro-life work, and what has that involvement entailed?

I have been doing pro-life work for four years. The work I do focuses mainly on vigils at abortion clinics. I hand out flyers offering help next to the entrance of the abortion clinic. Women are easily reached, and regularly women go home after reading the help leaflet or talking.

How did you first feel drawn to doing pro-life work?

When I saw the pro-life film Unplanned, my heart broke. The images showing how an abortion is carried out and what happens to the baby touched me deeply. I thought: I can no longer look away, and must take action to represent their voice, and save lives. These children have no voice and cannot defend themselves. Most people have no mercy on them.

The distress of women in crisis also touched me. Many women have fears, and because of the circumstances, see abortion as their only way out. I believe that God is the Creator of all life, and that the born and the unborn are of equal value. If we ourselves live by grace and mercy, we should distribute it.

What was your experience being arrested like?

On Tuesday, April 2, I went to sidewalk counsel at the abortion clinic in Utrecht. They perform abortions up to 24 weeks. In addition to Dutch women, many foreign women from other European countries also come here for abortions. I had only been at the abortion clinic for five minutes when an angry employee in a white coat came out. He ordered me to go across the street, because according to him, I was not allowed to stand that close.

I explained to him that he was incorrect; in the Netherlands, one-person protests are allowed everywhere. He berated me and said he was going to call the police. The police arrived quickly and went to the clinic to find out what had happened. They accused me of “disorderly conduct.” I had not yet spoken to any woman or handed out any leaflets, but they said my presence was enough to cause disorder—I always stand to the side of the entrance, and people can easily walk around me. All I do is offer leaflets, and if they decline, I stand back.

In Rotterdam, where I also do sidewalk counseling, the police regularly threaten me with arrest, or a criminal record legally cannot. I did not want to be intimidated by the police, so I stayed. I also stayed because our presence has a real effect. Regularly, women who read a “help” leaflet choose to cancel their abortion appointment and have their baby instead, and when we leave, it costs lives. This is a spiritual battle. For an hour, the police observed me from their police van as I did what I always do—handed out leaflet. I thought they could not send me away, because I am not doing anything wrong.

Four women accepted a leaflet. One woman arrived crying, took a leaflet, and went in; after a half hour she came outside again. She probably will not have an abortion. A desperate-looking couple came walking up, and I offered them a leaflet and told them that there is help. They stood in front of the entrance, looking at the leaflet, and didn’t go in. My friend hugged her and she cried; my friend wiped the tears from her face. I shared this in a group chat and asked for unceasing prayer. The couple moved to another spot, further away from the entrance.

A moment later, the officers told me they were arresting me—the moment they saw the couple walking away. I thought: A life is being saved. I saw the woman and thought of the unborn life she carried under her heart. I just thought: You are safe. I was happy to get arrested for that—it gave me a lot of courage. Meanwhile, an evangelist—a man whom I did not know—came to the clinic. He prayed for me and filmed the police arresting me. He had felt it on his heart to go to the abortion clinic at that moment.

When I arrived at the police station, all my things had to be handed in, and I was put in a cell measuring 2 metres by 1.5 metres. Some of my clothes had to come off, and I was given a blanket against the cold. In the cell I thanked God for the life that had been saved. I experienced much peace from God and felt carried by prayer. I was not afraid. After sitting in the cell for 3.5 hours, the lawyer came. I was allowed to go home, although I was told that I would get two more fines. I am still waiting to find out why.

What are you planning to do next?

I have no regrets, nor do I plan to stop! I am definitely going to the clinic again, with courage. God has given me strength. I hope we can expand the vigil, and that there will be a watchman at every clinic every day to offer help to women and save lives. I hope and pray that abortion becomes unthinkable!

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