I was reminded of that earlier today, upon receipt of some news from the Good Counsel Network, regarding a mum and baby whom they are attempting to help and support. It would not at this point, be appropriate for me to go into the specifics of this case, but it’s a timely reminder that though the narrative of abortion seems to be about fully autonomous choice – the reality is far from that for many women, who are coerced into abortion against their will, often being frogmarched to abortion clinics by controlling relatives or boyfriends.
There are a handful of sceptics in the pro-life movement who believe that pro-life work should not consist of helping women in need, but should be all about the politics and campaigning for changes in society, in order to make abortion not only unthinkable but also unnecessary. Pro-life work should not consist purely of mopping up, of providing the layette and the basic baby equipment for impoverished or abandoned mothers, but needs to think beyond the needs of the newborn baby and address the needs of single mothers with toddlers and young children. It is not enough to think that once the baby is saved from the abortionist’s tools, that the job is done. We need a society that is prepared to protect the vulnerable, which includes amongst others, young children and their mothers.
In a recent conversation with Deborah Orr, I highlighted that abortion is a sign of female inequality, in that women are under various pressures not to have children if they want to be able to compete on equal terms with men in the workplace. There is something very wrong in a society that seeks to present abortion as solution to inequality, if anything abortion perpetuates the inequality as it forces the woman to suppress her feminine fertility and natural bodily functions, if she is to succeed, or in some cases survive. The social, financial and economic inequalities that lead to abortion being touted as a solution need to be addressed, which is why pro-life needs to look beyond pregnancy and the newborn baby.
But that does not mean that there is no place for practical action. In a society that uses abortion as a sticking plaster, we therefore need practical action to help these women who feel that they have little other choice. Whilst some may feel that the politicking and campaigning is their calling, there is also a need to step in and help those who are facing desperate and terrible circumstances.
Which is where organisations like the Good Counsel network come in. Contrary to the myths peddled by the Guardian, the Good Counsel Network are there helping the poorest and those marginalised in society. Their typical clients are not the middle-class professionals arriving for a lunchtime abortion, but those on the very fringes of society. Women from ethnic minorities who are facing terrible cultural pressures for example. Immigrants who do not qualify for any benefits and who financially feel that they have little other choice. Homeless women and victims of domestic violence. Why should these women be denied the choice or opportunity of motherhood, due to poverty or social isolation?
The Good Counsel network has been criticised for its overt Christian iconography and Christian mission, but let’s think about this for a minute. Christ was a man of compassion. He shared human burdens and alleviated suffering. Jesus could not look at those suffering without being moved to intervene in some way. He was moved when people experienced pain, sickness, sorrow, were hungry, lonely or confused. Christ was concerned with helping people, and if we are to bring about the Kingdom it is not simply by empathy, by feeling someone’s pain but by following in his footsteps and doing something to alleviate it. The Good Counsel network is all about compassion in action, by demonstrating Christ’s love, not simply by words and certainly not by evangelising or attempting to convert, but by the outreach, love and support they give to women in specific need.
I know what it is like to be pregnant and vulnerable, only too well. I am fortunate, my husband tells me everyday what a hero I am for doing the work of nurturing an unborn child and bringing her to life, whilst also looking after our other little ones. He is also good at doing what he can to alleviate the burdens when he can, be that cuddling the baby to sleep so that I can have a bath, doing as many household chores as he can, taking the children out for a few hours at the weekend so I can have a much needed nap, or simply going out to fetch a packet of Haribo or MacDonalds as the mood takes me. I think he’s the hero frankly for putting up with grumpy pregnant miserable hefalump wife for 9 months! I would not have coped without him. Many women do not have that. The Good Counsel network provides the much needed emotional, practical and often financial support that is so often missing.
To be pregnant, whilst not an illness, is to be vulnerable. Anyone who calls themselves pro-life, needs to accept this. Pregnant women get free prescriptions, free dental care because pregnancy puts an additional physical burden on the body, it lowers immunity and makes women more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Employment law also now recognises this, which is why employers have a duty of care to ensure that pregnant women are not working in an unsafe or physically compromising environment and are not over-burdened or compromised. In every single one of my pregnancies, I have at some point just wanted someone to understand all the various physical and emotional anxieties, and someone to reassure me that everything is going to be OK. This is where the support offered by pro-life organisations is invaluable. They are there to help, not just with platitudes but with actual help, be that being there at the end of the phone, or helping to provide the basics that a woman needs. The mother is not dismissed the moment that she has her baby either, the Good Counsel Network, continues to offer help, advice and support for as a long as a woman feels it necessary, hence they are still assisting mothers with toddlers and older children. It is up to the mother to decide when she no longer needs their help.
Here is why they should not be dismissed or scoffed at.
We spend £40,000 per year on feeding Mothers. And we give this help when a Mother has no wage, no right to benefits and no other means of support.Some of our Mothers were sleeping on buses or on the street as late as 7 months into their pregnancies.Many others considered abortion because of their devastating poverty when their baby’s father chose not to support them in having their baby.Those readers who have been pregnant and who know the awful hunger pangs you can endure in pregnancy even when you have plenty to eat will understand how terrible real hunger in pregnancy can be!We always deliver the help that we promise an expectant Mother. We don’t provide luxuries, but we do provide the basics
It costs us £35 to feed an new Mother for 1 week.It costs us £25 to feed an expectant Mother for 1 week.It costs £15 to pay for baby milk each week when a Mother cannot breastfeed.It costs us £7 a week to buy nappies for a baby.It costs about £3.60 a day to feed an expectant Mother.