June 19, 2018

Trolled for defending life

Bethany Marsh defending pro-life volunteers outside NSW Parliament House. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

A young Sydney woman has been viciously abused and threatened online for her pro-life activities after her appearance in a TV interview.

Bethany Marsh, 19, is a volunteer sidewalk counsellor and spokesperson for We Support Women, a group opposing the safe access zones Bill currently being considered by the NSW Parliament.

The bill sponsored by Labor Penny Sharpe and National’s Trevor Kahn’s would ban sidewalk counsellors from offering support and alternatives to women within 150 metres of reproductive health clinics.

The second year student at Campion College was interviewed for the SBS current affairs show The Feed, which she says unfairly focussed on the fact that she does not have a counselling qualification.

“It was not actually relevant to the Sharpe Bill. I don’t pretend to be a trained professional, I’m just a point of contact for people to access those who are,” she told The Catholic Weekly.

This is just one of the social media threats received by Bethany Marsh for her pro-life stance. Offensive language and information identifying the person threatening her has been edited out.

But that was nothing compared to what happened next.

After the program aired on the evening of Wednesday 23 May Bethany’s Facebook account was bombarded with highly graphic and abusive threats, mostly from men.

“I’m really hoping this Bill doesn’t pass or I may not get the chance to find you outside a fertility clinic one day! Keep your eyes open snowflake,” warned one user.

Bethany said she was expecting some sort of backlash but was shocked at its personal nature.

“A lot of them were intense. Things like, ‘You’d better watch your back. You never know when I’m going to be around the corner when you’re at Westmead’ because I mentioned that I am sometimes outside the clinic there.

Campaigners of the offering of last-minute alternatives and support to women considering abortion gathered outside Parliament House last week. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“That’s not ideal…I know they’re not going to carry through with it, but it’s still not comforting.”
Bethany took screenshots of the worst comments but was unable to report them to Facebook and has decided not to report them to police.

Rattled by the extent of the abuse but powered by her conviction, Bethany is still willing to be a public face of Australia’s young pro-life movement.

“A lot of what people say is just empty and they’re just acting on emotion,” she said.

“But if people are that misguided that they think something as innocent as what I’m trying to do to help women is evil, then that’s a lot bigger issue than the presence or absence of sidewalk counsellors.

“Their misconception and hatred towards the pro-life movement in general, and many other things are much bigger issues.

“Really I just feel sorry for them that they’re in that mindset.”

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