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Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse prays at pro-life vigil outside Canberra abortion clinic

Canberra Goulburn's Catholic Archbishop has led prayers during a vigil outside a city abortion clinic as part of a global pro-life movement in the lead up to Easter.

The same movement has led women's groups to re-examine whether exclusion zones could be a viable option to stop protesters targeting women who accessed ACT clinics to end a pregnancy. 

Archbishop Christopher Prowse was among a clutch of anti-abortion demonstrators, many linked to religious groups, who gathered outside the ACT Health Building on Moore Street on Tuesday.

Members of the group held rosary beads and displayed signs in support of the 40 Days for Life campaign - a worldwide movement that advocates for the eradication of abortion.

Archbishop Prowse said he attended the vigil to pray ahead of Holy Week - the seven days before Easter Sunday - because the pro-life movement was linked to "the essence of the [Christian] gospel".

He also agitated for options to be given to women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy, "because very rarely does a woman unreflectedly go into an abortion".


"There is a crucial time limit where she needs to be given all sorts of real options other than an abortion option," he said.

Archbishop Prowse recognised abortion was a "very complex issue" and "highly-politicised" but said demonstrators were not "fanatics or right-wingers". 

"We're just simple people of goodwill who have a troubled social conscience that this continues on in this beautiful city of Canberra and we would like to think there might be alternatives given more vigorously to women who do find themselves with unwanted pregnancies." 

ACT Right to Life Association president Bev Cains said demonstrators had prayed outside the clinic around lunchtime each day of the campaign and had copped "a fair bit of feedback, good and bad".

"We've had some reaction from people who don't like us and on the other hand we've had people who've come and prayed during their lunch hour and then moved on."

Women's Centre for Health Matters health promotion officer Angela Carnovale said such protests were "utterly misguided" and demonstrators should target politicians if they disagreed with current ACT legislation, not women who visited the clinics.

"The ACT as a jurisdiction has been in front in terms of removing abortion from the criminal code," she said.

"The ACT recognises that termination is a health issue and is dealt with by the health system just like any health issue. 

"Women access termination services for such an incredibly broad range of reasons that no one else is in a position to comment or judge."

Ms Carnovale said the organisation was interested in looking at whether exclusion zones for abortion clinics would be appropriate for the ACT.

""That's very preliminary at this stage," she said.

Australian organisation Children by Choice has created an online and social media campaign, 40 Days of Choice, to counter the 40 Days for Life movement.