Recently Amnesty International, Northern Ireland, issued the bold claim that “Women will always have abortions”. The implication appears to be that because of this we must consequently legislate for and facilitate abortion. This sweeping statement completely ignores the fact that women facing a crisis pregnancy need help and support with their particular crisis. This is LIFE Northern Ireland’s (“LIFE NI”) raison d’etre.
LIFE NI was set up 36 years ago essentially to protect both the life of the unborn child, from the moment of conception, and the mother of that unborn child. The founders of LIFE UK believed it was not enough simply to oppose abortion but that the positive alternatives should also be provided. The mission of LIFE NI is to uphold the value of human life from conception by caring for those affected by pregnancy and abortion; to educate and inform the whole community; to promote and protect the well-being of unborn children, their mothers and society.
For 36 years LIFE NI has developed its services in the provision of dedicated pregnancy care, supported housing and education.
The impact of crisis pregnancy on a woman, her partner and family should never be underestimated. Pregnancy in expected circumstances can bring with it many difficulties so therefore in the case of an unexpected or crisis pregnancy the difficulties can be much more intense. The reasons that women feel they are in a crisis pregnancy are many and are unique. No one story will be the same as another and therefore the type of help, support and care needed by each individual woman will be unique to her and her particular situation.
The following examples give an indication of some of the reasons women facing crisis pregnancy may find themselves accessing our services.
The first example is a girl in her late teens. She has just started a course in university and is enjoying her new found freedom as she is living away from home. She finds out that she is pregnant and when she tells her boyfriend the news he ends their relationship, telling her it is not his problem and leaving her on her own. She feels lost and thinks that she has no support. She is seriously considering ending her pregnancy but doesn’t think she could actually go through with this option. She turns to LIFE where she is offered counselling and practical support. She is also offered a place in the LIFE house during her pregnancy and for as long as she needs it once the baby is born. Without this support which LIFE offers, many young girls in this situation do take decisions which they later live to regret.
Another girl was living with her boyfriend and found out that she was pregnant. Her boyfriend was adamant that they were not ready yet to have a baby but she wasn’t sure that she could go through with an abortion. Everything felt different for her, all conversations turned to abortion. Eventually she did have an abortion but afterwards she felt empty and alone wondering if they had done the right thing and trying to convince herself that they had had no option. Her friends noticed a change in her mood and she was tired all the time. She went to her GP for help and the GP referred her to LIFE NI for counselling. She availed of LIFE NI’s post-abortion counselling services and eventually acknowledged that she had really wanted to continue with the pregnancy but because her boyfriend hadn’t wanted to she felt she couldn’t.
Another girl who found out that she was pregnant whilst studying for her GCSEs initially put her symptoms down to stress over exam worries. However after a positive pregnancy test she told her boyfriend the news and together they told both sets of parents. The girl knew she wanted to keep her baby, and as it turned out she found out that she was carrying twins. She faced a lot of concern from the people who knew her and many often presented abortion as an option to her. She continued to stress clearly to her friends and family that she wanted to keep her babies. Her school was very supportive and at times she admits that the pregnancy sickness and GCSE stress was a lot to handle. She completed her exams and was pleased to find the results better than she expected. She then went on to have her twins and took a year out of school to be with them and look after them. Her boyfriend stood by her and supported her and although she didn’t follow the career path she had originally intended on she is now happy in her job. Whilst she admits that the journey has been difficult at times she also says that if she had to do it all over again she would do it exactly the same way.
Abortion is an emotive issue with many conflicting viewpoints on both sides of the debate in NI. LIFE NI seeks to help address the situations leading to abortion. We realise that there are many reasons women feel their pregnancy is a crisis in their lives and we also believe that many of these issues can be resolved through care, counselling, support and practical help. LIFE NI understands that more often than not it is not the pregnancy which is the crisis but rather a woman finds that pregnancy exacerbates the crisis she already faces, whether that is financial, educational, familial or personal. Through our range of services LIFE NI continues to offer a means by which women can address the crisis in their lives, alleviate it and be empowered to continue with their pregnancy.
Having someone to turn to in a crisis can make all the difference when we feel under pressure. Having space to talk through feelings and emotions in a crisis can help to focus our thoughts. Having access to information on practical resources and financial aid when money is tight is of great benefit.
To go back to the claim that “women will always have abortions” – we need to change this dangerous rhetoric. It is true that many women will feel in crisis when they find out that they are pregnant. There will always be crisis pregnancy situations and therefore women will always require care, professional counselling, support and practical help.
If you need help, support or advice please contact the LIFE NI care service Pregnancy Matters on 028 9043 8344. For more information about our work and services contact the main LIFE NI office on 028 9043 8339 or email [email protected]