What can I say? I didn’t think I had so much to say until I put pen to paper and then thoughts and feelings all came tumbling out.
So, this is what I have to say about the place we ﬁnd ourselves now in Northern Ireland, with the imminent introduction of regulations that will permit widely available abortion for the ﬁrst time.
Here, in our wee country, we have withstood the ever encroaching tide of abortion for over 50 years, but now abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, abortion for almost any other reason up to 24 weeks and abortion up to birth for fetal abnormality (in other words, disability), is being imposed on us.
I am left with a profound sense of sadness that it has come to this. It feels like a tidal wave has swept over us, one that could forever change the landscape of our society.
A mixture of feelings creep in; disbelief, bewilderment, frustration tinged with anger . . . how can this have happened? Sadness comes because I’ve been involved on the prolife side of the issues for almost 40 years, as a volunteer and then working for Life NI in the provision of care, support and education services.
Our concern had always been the extension of the same abortion legislation as in Britain. The tide always seemed to be against us, but we resisted and fought oﬀ every challenge. We were realistic enough to think that abortion might one day come to us, but we hoped that it would come in a limited form and as a result of the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, expressed through our own elected representatives, at least that would be easier to bear.
That we will have even more extreme abortion, less regulated than in the rest of the UK or even in the rest of Ireland, is hard to take in.
This picture came to mind – it’s like we were in a room with the door closed. We might have had to open the door just a little bit, but we would keep the security chain on to protect those inside. Now it’s like the door has been burst open forcibly, the security chain broken and those inside have been left stunned and shaken. Disbelief and anger surface.
A new reality
So, we live with a new reality now and the impact of this on our people, on our society and culture is unfathomable. Another comparison comes to mind, one prompted by current circumstances. We are all living with a sense of bewilderment, as our lives are changed in ways we would never have imagined – by a virus! Everyone has been impacted whether they have, or ever will have the virus or not. How we live and relate to one another has now changed. These external changes are only temporary; we will get back to normal and typically if we haven’t lost a loved one due to the virus, we will forget how awful it was and life will go on. But if we have lost a loved one, we will always remember this time.
This is what it will be like if this new permissive abortion regime becomes established in our wee country. It will change our society and everyone will be impacted whether abortion comes to their door or not, whether they recognise the impact or not. Yes, on the surface life will go on but deep down something will have changed, a shift will have taken place in how we value human life and for those who have lost a child to abortion, they will always remember that loss.
I know it’s complicated. The reasons for abortion are not simple, the situations that lead to abortion are diﬃcult. I know this because of my work for Life NI; from those who have sought our help, as well as from shared personal experiences of people I know. So, I understand the complexities of pregnancy crises, the diﬃculties women face. There are no easy answers, but I have seen the diﬀerence between the impact of the choice to continue with the pregnancy and have the baby and the choice to end the pregnancy and have an abortion.
Ending the pregnancy is ending the life of her baby and for some of our clients that loss is something they will never forget. It can aﬀect their view of themselves as well as their present or future relationships. These new regulations are aimed at making it easier to get an abortion and may end up making it harder for women to cope with the impact abortion has on their lives.
So yes, it’s complicated. Especially if you’re in a panic and don’t know which way to turn – then abortion does seem like a way out. But in any diﬃcult life situation we need time to think, to talk it out, to process it before making life changing decisions – time and space needs to be given. Will this happen when these regulations come into force? Or will it all be over and done with before the import of what is happening begins to sink in?
Change is needed
What of our doctors and midwives? Under these regulations only one doctor is needed to sign oﬀ on the abortion, or one nurse or midwife. But what is this asking of them? In their day to day work in their surgeries, hospitals or clinics, with one patient they are taking every care to bring a new life safely to birth and yet now with another patient they are to take that life away. How do they reconcile these two opposites? What protections will be in place for those who can’t reconcile this and want to opt out of abortions?
Our own government, our assembly, our MLAs need to take action and take back control of this diﬃcult and heart-breaking area of legislation. We need a solution that will ﬁt better with Northern Ireland, our society and culture. After all, if the majority of respondents to the consultation – almost 80% – disagreed with the proposed framework, then surely something should be done to change it. As a friend of mine commented
so the majority don’t matter?!
We should matter, we should be listened to!
Pregnancy Matters™, the charity’s services of counselling, care and support are needed more than ever now. You can check out the detail of what help is oﬀered though Pregnancy Matters™ on the website, but to summarise; we are there from the beginning, throughout pregnancy and after the baby is born – pregnancy testing, counselling, practical help, accommodation, community support. We’re also there for anyone affected by pregnancy loss or post abortion.
Amidst all the other feelings I ﬁnd myself surprised by hope. Hope that the tide will eventually turn back to recognise once more the humanity and personhood of the child in the womb. Hope that our society will, once more, place the high value on women given by the ﬁrst feminists who fought for women’s rights but did not believe that was in conﬂict with their motherhood. Hope that better support services for women and children will be increased so no woman ever feels she has to make an agonising decision for abortion.
Hope that hearts and minds can be changed.