It must have been a slow day at the abortion mill because a woman was outside the clinic attaching sheets of plastic to the fence.

She greeted me quite cordially and explained that she was attaching these sheets to act as a barrier so that abortion mill clients would not see us as they entered the building. She claimed it was distressing for them

This lady seemed pleasant enough – we actually talked for some time and I was struck by her courtesy and professionality. She explained how an abortion was the answer to so many problems for the people coming to the clinic. It solved money worries, stopped the problem of physically and mentally challenged children being born, saved embarrassment for a woman if she did not want her parents or husband to know she was pregnant, was the route to escape for a woman in an abusive relationship and helped with balancing a family.

I told her that I agreed with her. It was an effective answer to all those problems. In fact, I said, it would be an ideal solution, if only a child didn’t die in the process, and if only a mother didn’t spend the rest of her life in torment over her decision.

My answer gave her pause, for at least two seconds. Then she countered with the suggestion that many people didn’t believe it was a child anyway. I was surprised that she used that argument, given she was a highly intelligent woman of obvious education. Perhaps my candour caught her off guard.

In any case I explained that scientists – and generally all pro-choice advocates – now openly admit that it is a human being that is being killed by abortion, but they argue that a woman has the right to choose life for her child, and the child hasn’t reached ‘personhood’ in the womb anyway. Imagine that, I said, that we can kill another simply by choosing. Simply for convenience. And the justification is ‘no personhood’ – whatever that means.

I think she was surprised that a pro-life person could know these things. So she changed the subject. She said that she had noticed that the ground was covered in white material and she hoped that it would not make life uncomfortable for me or the others on the prayer line.

I said it was sugar, and lots of it. The lady explained that she had no idea who put it there.

I suggested it may be there to attract ants to our location. She didn’t say anything. A few minutes later some of her staff came out to assist her, and her attitude to me changed immediately. She was immediately aggressive and uncompromising.

I was to learn later that she was the main abortionist at the Mill. She was being groomed to take over from the original, who was retiring. She was also the one who went on public television a few years earlier, boasting how she had euthanased one of her elderly patients. Euthanasia was clearly illegal at the time under Western Australian Statutes, but neither the police nor the parliament opted to prosecute her. Somehow she had ended up at the abortion mill, demonstrating her disdain for life at both ends of the continuum.

The ants never came that day, and that night we had a lot of rain and all the sugar was washed away.

I don’t know what became of the sheets of plastic.