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Last week on the Daily Politics show, Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing who has been openly encouraging the pro-choice group, Sister Supporter, appeared to waver slightly on her stance. 

When it was pointed out to her that it was in fact  the pro-choice group Sister Supporter who have been turning the clinic vigils into something of a circus, Ms Huq responded as follows in relation to the protestors, “Clear them all” and “I would like to keep these pavements a safer space and clear of protestors from whatever side”. 

I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not Anna Vegilo-White might not have seen that as something of a betrayal coming from the MP who has supported and encouraged her group .  Ms Huq appeared to be saying that they were all as bad as each other.

The point made by Clare McCullough, one of the founders of the Good Counsel Network was a valid one. Until the emergence of Sister Supporter about a year ago, there had never previously been any complaints of nuisance by the local residents.

The vigil consists of a handful of mainly elderly people, on the green across the road from the abortion facility, who quietly pray the rosary. They have a couple of signs, one of the Virgin Mary, one a nice picture of a baby in utero,  and another which invites women to approach them if they are in need of any assistance. Slightly more controversially, placed on the ground in front of them are three models of plastic foetuses, all anatomically correct and in proportion, corresponding to different stages in pregnancy. One volunteer stands near the clinic entrance offering passers-by a leaflet, which they are free to accept or decline.

If there was harassment of the nature alleged by Sister Supporter and Marie Stopes, including that which stops women and supposedly staff, from entering and leaving the clinic, then existing legislation, such as the Public Order Act, which has been successfully used to prosecute anti-vivisectionist and animal rights campaigners, would already have been used. In an age where the camera phone is ubiquitous and the clinic has two cameras permanently trained upon the vigil, why has there been no footage released of women being harassed, shouted at, abused and even, as Pam Lowe attempted to claim on BBC1’s Sunday Morning Live, having what she sincerely hoped was, holy water, thrown over them.  A particularly vicious lie.

The fact is that no criminal prosecution or even arrests have taken place, because no criminal activity has occurred. The Public Space Protection Order, which Ealing Borough Council hopes to impose will criminalise the activities of those on the vigil. Activity, which could arguably be defined as freedom of speech and the right to protest, which is covered by sections 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act.

Every Saturday, Sister Supporter and their pro-choice rentamob (consisting of an existing London network of pro-choice supporters), pitch up wearing pink high vis jackets, brandishing megaphones  and boomboxes and attempt to disrupt the prayer vigil. They sing erudite songs of female emancipation such as Abba’s totemic ‘Dancing Queen’, before tailing off and launching into other classics, such as ‘If you like Pina Colada’. Let’s be honest, it’s about the only pain relief that’s going to be on offer inside a Marie Stopes, according to the recent findings of the CQC.

I’ve blogged about the antics of Sister Supporter before, but they have happily disrupted a peaceful religious procession which departs from Ealing Abbey every Saturday and also attempted to prevent Mass-goers from leaving the building. Their aim is to put as much pressure as possible on the abbey in order that they will then discourage Catholics from participating in any kind of pro-life activity in public. It seems that Sister Supporter aren’t very tolerant when it comes to religious freedom.

As Clare McCullough pointed out on a number of different media, it’s actually far worse for women entering the abortion clinic to be faced with a confrontational throng and an atmosphere of hostility, where they can’t tell who is who, rather than one single person, offering them a leaflet.

Back to Rupa Huq and today in the House of Commons, Ms Huq raised a question about the proposed PSPO in Ealing and whether or not these can be extended across the country, to which Conservative in name only, Amber Rudd appeared to signal her agreement. As part of her question Rupa alluded to the pro-choice demonstrators who have for the past year been creating a situation of hostility and chaos outside the abortion facility, making it very difficult for the general public to pass. (Unlike our quiet rosary prayers who stand on the grass).

 

It’s clear then, that Rupa Huq sees both sides as a nuisance and equally vexatious. Which begs the question, why does she regularly join in and lead the protestors such as she did this weekend, the day AFTER she had called for them all to be cleared on the Daily Politics show.

 

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Labour MP, Rupa Huq, Saturday 14th October 2017, standing much closer to the pavement than those on the pro-life vigil and proudly facing them down. These same pro-choice protestors that she described as a problem in Parliament, on Monday 16th October 2017

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A close-up of Rupa Huq in the centre of the pro-choice protest Saturday 14th October 2017

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Rupa Huq on a previous occasion outside the Mattock Lane clinic in Ealing. Leading a pro-choice protest which she now describes as a problem and nuisance for local residents.

And riddle me this. Why then this morning, did Marie Stopes have to ask a group of pro-choice students from a local university not to film their clients as they entered the clinic? Did Marie Stopes note this pro-choice harassment in their log book? Did they film the pro-choice students filming? You can bet your life that had this been pro-lifers the footage would have been all over social media quick sharp complete with obligatory rosaries and ovaries hashtag.

A cynic would suggest that the new pro-choice tactic is indeed to cause as much disruption outside of the clinics as possible in order to get everyone tarred with the same brush and banned as swiftly as possible. No more women helped to choose life for their baby outside of the clinic and no awkward visible reminders of the humanity of the child whose life is at stake. How very convenient.

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As reported in the Catholic Herald, academic Catholic theologian Tina Beattie has signed a letter to the Polish Bishops’ Conference supporting ‘early, safe and legal’ abortion.

Joseph Shaw has demolished her ethical and theological arguments on his philosophy blog here – Mrs Beattie’s position is an indefensible one from a Catholic point of view.

But there is an another important element to Tina Beattie’s letter which is so far being overlooked. She says that in” those situations where abortion is deemed necessary – such as those currently permitted under Polish law, we believe that access to early, safe and legal abortion is necessary”.

Dr Shaw reminds us of the conclusions of the 2012 Dublin Declaration on Maternal health, which was signed by over one thousand medical practitioners, which explicitly stated that ‘the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of the woman.’

On those rare occasions that medical treatment needs to be carried out to preserve the life of the mother which could endanger the baby’s life,  the timing is only important in as much as the treatment is performed at a stage when it is going to be efficacious. Sometimes life threatening complications do not occur until a later stage in pregnancy, at which point it is often possible to treat them, while at the same time preserving the life of the infant.

Tina Beattie seems to be propagating the point of view that the earlier an abortion is carried out, the easier and safer it is for the woman. This confirms the sales propaganda of the abortion clinics, who use this to pressure women to make swift decisions, ones which they may later regret.

I speak from bitter experience here as I bought the very same line, opting to take the swift ‘medical abortion’ route under pressure and thus avoid the need for surgery. If, as the letter suggests, women very often face an agonising decision in terms of what to do about their pregnancies, then suggesting that they need to make the decision as quickly as possible in order maximise health outcomes, only puts further pressure on them. The question is whether or not we ought to be ending the lives of unwanted unborn babies, not at what stage this ought to be carried out. The idea of swift early safe abortion for disabled children, is a red herring to justify the lie of abortion being the only compassionate and responsible option in certain circumstances.

The UK abortion industry justify their existence by noting that the majority of abortions performed in the UK are done so in the first trimester. For the last year that statistics are available (2014) the number of medical abortions performed, accounted for 51% of the total and 92% of all abortions were in the first trimester. Of the 184, 571 abortions carried out in this year, 2%, (3099 babies) were aborted on the grounds of foetal disability.

Mrs Beattie’s push for early, safe and legal abortion for situations of disability, rape and danger to the mother’s life as well as being morally and ethically unsound is based on a dodgy grasp of the physical reality and one that could potentially mislead women into making an irreversible decision, on mistaken health grounds.

The idea of an early, safe abortion for babies with disabilities is dangerous myth. The first screening test for abnormalities occurs at the end of the first trimester. Most women going for a 12 week scan will have already made the decision that they are keeping their baby. Women are now able to discover that they are pregnant even a few days before their period is due. The nuchal fold combined screening test, which is a specific test for chromosomal abnormalities such as Downs Syndrome, is performed somewhere between the 11th and 14th week of pregnancy. The results of an ultrasound are combined with the results of a blood test in order to give women a result which tells them the probability that their baby has Downs Syndrome or another chromosomal disorder. If the result is higher than a 1 in 150 chance, then you will be offered counselling and a further diagnostic test, either an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling which will confirm any diagnosis. Sometimes, a nuchal fold screening may not be able to be performed, if for example the baby is in the wrong position, in which case a quadruple serum test would be carried out after 14 weeks, but like the nuchal fold test, this will only give you a probability score.

The earliest that one is therefore likely to receive a confirmed diagnosis, will be around the 14 week mark, taking into account the timing of lab result tests and appointments. Should you decide that you want to have an abortion, then it would not be performed for at least another 24-48 hours.

Realistically, an abortion for a chromosomal abnormality will take place at around 15 weeks at the earliest, at which point the procedure is already more risky due to the rapidly growing foetus. The option of a medical abortion will be long gone and the suction method to evacuate the baby from the womb, is no longer possible either. You are already looking at a more complicated D&E procedure, which carries more risks. At 15 weeks many women will be experiencing foetal movements.

That’s not to promote any method of abortion as being the more desirable, but if Tina Beattie is going to cite medical facts, then she needs to be aware that swift, early stage abortion, is off the table for women who find that their babies have a physical abnormality. And there are many other non-chromosomal disorders which are not discovered until the 20 week scan, which if the mother decided that she didn’t want to keep the baby, would necessitate a  traumatic late-stage abortion.

It’s therefore deeply problematic to cite or advocate early stage abortion as a solution for disabled children, not just on the eugenic or moral grounds, but because it is not a physical reality. A brief look at the current ante-natal support threads on Mumsnet, will tell stories of mothers being given false diagnoses of disability, along with women really agonising over what to do and not wanting to take the decision to abort their baby, until they really do have every last piece of information regarding their condition and have sought second opinions, advice, counselling and so on. Nobody is rushing to abort, even though many report feeling under pressure from the medics.

It’s a disservice to women who find themselves in this heartbreaking situation, to present them with an option of early abortion, that they do not actually have. It displays a profoundly disturbing obstetric ignorance from someone who ought to have done more basic research. It is disingenuous in the extreme to use disability as a justification for early-stage abortion.

If I were to claim to be a card-carrying member of the Labour party and yet propagate Tory views, claiming them as legtimate Labour views and actually use my membership to gain myself a platform and employment as a representative of the Labour party, then they would be well within their rights to have my membership withdrawn and to be clear that I did not represent the party’s political views.

This isn’t about the Polish Church attempting to impose theological views on the rest of the country, but merely making their doctrinal position clear, as they are entitled to do so. Poland is a functioning democracy; any measures to protect the right to life of the unborn child are in full accordance with Article 3 of the UN Charter for Human Rights which specifically lays out the right to life, are being enacted by an elected and accountable government.

The attempt to tell the Polish bishops they are wrong seems to be about imposing a feminist agenda onto Catholicism, more than a little presumptious as well as ethically, theologically and morally incorrect, as Father Alexander Lucie-Smith has also made clear.  Hence the resulting outrage.This is not the Catholic position; to present it as such could cause confusion and worst still, cost lives.

Update 11th February 2017

Tina Beattie has asked me to point out that she does not support pre-natal testing for Downs Syndrome and therefore my photograph should not mislead anyone as to her position. A few days after I published this post, which was supposed to be about the physical risks of later termination, after physical anomalies have been discovered, Tina published a blogpost outlining her view on abortion, which I am happy to reproduce here. http://tina-beattie.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/my-position-on-abortion-setting-record.html

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The pro-life world is currently in uproar about remarks made by Chelsea Clinton at a recent fundraiser for her mother, Hilary, in which she claimed to have left the Baptist Church at the age of 6, thanks to its stance on abortion.

 I was raised in a Methodist church and I left the Baptist church before my dad did, because I didn’t know why they were talking to me about abortion when I was 6 in Sunday school.

Going on to defend her faith and that of mother’s which she believes is wholly compatible with a pro-choice viewpoint, she said “I recognized that there were many expressions of faith that I don’t agree with and feel [are] quite antithetical to how I read the Bible…But I find it really challenging when people who are self-professed liberals kind of look askance at my family’s history.”

The subtext is clear – support of abortion is compatible with Christianity as evidenced by her family’s own religious faith. Many people would take issue with how far the Clinton family exemplify Christian values, but let’s be charitable and accept her belief that her family are all God-fearing Christians. It still doesn’t mean that their interpretation of the Bible when it comes to abortion is the correct one, and billions of Christians around the world, would vehemently disagree as to whether a Christian can sanction the killing of the unborn. But I can accept that this is a genuinely held, if theologically flawed, point of view.

Where I do take issue, is the idea that voters are being asked to uncritically accept the idea that the six year-old Chelsea had such a prodigious intellect that she was able to criticise the appropriateness of abortion as a topic in Sunday school and make a conscious decision to reject the Baptist church thanks to a theological difference of opinion. It stretches credulity to say the least.

A far more likely explanation is that upon being asked about what they learnt about in Sunday school that week, little Chelsea piped up something about abortion and Hilary whipped her out sharpish and promptly attempted to unpick any pro-life sentiment or ideas which may have taken root in the impressionable six year old’s brain.

How many, even precocious, six year-olds would really object to being given a pro-life point of view in Sunday school, believing that abortion was a vital necessity and one which could be supported by a certain interpretation of Scripture?

Either Chelsea’s recollection of events is distorted, or she is telling blatant untruths, but either way it displays an unhealthy narcissism. Does she genuinely expect voters to believe that hers is such a brilliant mind that she was able to critically engage with theology and the thorny issue of abortion as a six-year old? In effect she is saying, ‘I was so wise and wonderful, that I knew, even at the age of tender age of six, that abortion was a great, wonderful and necessary tool for women’s empowerment. I am descended from the great tribe of political and academic heavyweights, listen and look upon my mighty intellect, ye proles, and take heed’.

Where pro-lifers are wrong however, is to assume that if she is telling the truth, that this is evidence of abusive or bad parenting, on the basis that no six year-old ought to know about abortion. If that is the case, then the Baptist Church which was mentioning such things to six year olds, deserves criticism. Although pro-choicers like Chelsea, ought to be honest with themselves as to why? If abortion is simply more than a removal of unwanted tissue or cells, and not a real human being, then what is the problem with telling children about it, in similar terms to describing a tonsilectomy or other similar minor procedure?

I remember losing a glut of Facebook and Twitter followers, who were all ironically pro-choicers, who were appalled when I mentioned that I’d had to discuss abortion with my eldest child, who was about seven at the time. It was felt that children wouldn’t be old enough to fully understand abortion and therefore shouldn’t be told. Which is in itself an admission that there’s something more moral and fundamental at stake that just putting a stop to a pregnancy. There’s also the feeling from both pro-lifers and pro-choicers that the role of parents is to protect their children from life’s horrors, until they are able to contextualise them. Again, an implicit understanding that abortion is not a ‘nice’ thing or a suitable topic for children.

I was forced to broach the issue, albeit in very gentle terms, with my daughter when she was in Year two or three, simply because she could read. She saw a leaflet from a pro-life organisation that was kicking about the house and asked what the word meant. She also overhead an answerphone message from a media outlet inviting me on a show to discuss abortion.The final nail in the coffin was having to drive past large displays of graphic images outside Brighton’s abortion clinic. She could see for herself what they were. I don’t believe in lying to children, or treating them as though they are stupid, but answering their questions in age-appropriate ways. Ours is a household in which lots of things are discussed calmly and sensibly, without ever once inviting scorn or hatred upon people. My daughter’s school was taken over by the notoriously progressive Brighton College – therefore we found ourselves forced to broach certain difficult and taboo topics, living as we did in a hub of LGBT activism with a disproportionate amount of the population who reject heteronormatism.  It’s ironic that many of those who are campaigning for children to be taught sex-education including the topics of homosexuality and transgenderism in schools from the age of 5, are recoiling at the notion that children could be told about abortion.

It was perhaps inevitable that a child in my household would become exposed to the concept of abortion, although interestingly it hasn’t yet cropped up with my younger children, the oldest of whom is now also six. So I don’t blame Hilary Clinton for Chelsea’s exposure to pro-choice views from an early age, because to some extent this was inevitable, although I would question anyone, on either side of the debate, who decided to sit down and explain the concept of abortion with a young child. I don’t have a problem with taking young children to pro-life events, or even with them joining in with prayer vigils outside clinics – it can very simply be explained without having to go into the specifics of abortion.

Most children, when they learn about abortion, are naturally horrified. They know instinctively that it’s an abhorrent and upsetting thing, which is why caution needs to be exercised and the topic needs to be discussed sensitively.

The horror and disgust levelled at Hilary Clinton is because, if Chelsea is to be believed, then she must have put in quite a bit of work to overcome a young child’s natural revulsion and convince her that abortion is a perfectly acceptable act. Children instinctively look to their mothers to protect them, they understand that their mothers have carried them in their tummies and the thought that a mother might decide to kill or get rid of a baby in her tummy is the stuff of childish nightmares and anxieties, especially if they believe that it’s something that their own mother might do at some point.

Heaven knows, I have some terrible explaining of my own to do at some point, which is why I was so distressed to be so publicly outed and betrayed by a former friend about my own abortion, a few years ago.

But where we do need to be careful, is in our condemnation of Hilary for her supposed indoctrination of Chelsea. No matter how heinous her views, as a parent, she has every right to pass them down to her children, and tragically this seems to have been the case. Chelsea obviously feels immensely proud and privileged to have been the recipient of such an upbringing and that her mother did the right thing in imparting her views.

The rights of parents as primary educators of their children is integral to Catholic teaching and therefore it is hypocritical of us to attempt to abuse or denigrate others for exercising those very same rights that we lay claim to when it comes to our own  children. We don’t have to tolerate the ideas which others are passing on to their children, but we must respect others’ rights to educate their children into their own value system, with the proviso that these views do not encourage, condone or coerce vulnerable youngsters into acts of violent terrorism.

The same accusation of harm or abuse, that we could level at militant atheists or devoted pro-choicers, could and often is, similarly and far more frequently lobbied at those of us with religious and socially conservative views.

As a 35 year old mother, Chelsea Clinton has had ample opportunity to reflect upon the values instilled in her as a child and either accept or reject them. But her experience bears out what both Catholics and left-leaning socialists accept. The family remains the most powerful source of political and religious evangelism there is and a family who not only expresses, but also positively lives out their convictions or views without hypocrisy are infinitely more likely to pass them down to future generations.

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A few weeks ago my friend posted a status update on Facebook highlighting a plea for help from a forum mainly populated by men. A poster’s girlfriend had found herself unexpectedly pregnant and the young man simply didn’t know what to do.

Without going too much into the specifics of the situation, he was a mature student, his girlfriend was slightly older than him, had a well-paid secure job and a child from a previous marriage. On discovering she was pregnant, her initial reaction was one of delight she assumed that they would be having the baby and set about telling all her friends and family.

Though the young man shared some of his girlfriend’s excitment, he was at the same time, daunted and understandably so. Although he loved his girlfriend, he took the responsibilities of fatherhood seriously and wasn’t sure whether or not now was the right time to take their relationship to the next level. The news that she was expecting sent the woman into what seems to be a frenzy of nesting. Immediately she made a series of demands upon him which involved him making a series of unnecessary and excessive sacrifices. He would need to abandon his plans for a PhD in a specialist scientific discipline, take up extra shifts on his minimum wage job and move in with her. He’d also not be allowed to take any of his pets into her home and neither would he be allowed any space of his own to study. He’d have to make do with the family’s kitchen table. Furthermore the baby’s arrival date was causing him some concern, it was due to coincide with his finals. He’d therefore had a major panic, feeling trapped, that she was bouncing him into a baby that he wasn’t ready for and while he wasn’t averse to the idea of a baby, he just couldn’t see how things were going to work out.

The replies to his request for advice made for uncomfortable and depressing reading. They ranged from the uncharitable to the downright misogynist. The general consensus was that nobody with any ounce of intelligence ever became accidentally pregnant. His girlfriend had obviously done it deliberately to trap him and he’d be best off getting rid of the pair of them. The mother of the baby was put on trial, her contraceptive arrangements were analysed in minute detail with all the blame for the mishap laid at her door.

Which is where I came in. Under the use of the pseudonym for obvious reasons, I weighed in with some friendly impartial advice. I pointed out that his girlfriend would likely be feeling physically dreadful as well as emotionally vulnerable. The effects of progesterone, in particular, should not be underestimated. It was only understandable that she might want to go into a ‘everything needs to be instantaneously perfect’ tailspin, but that she also needed to understand that while everything would be fine in due course, not to fret or sweat the small stuff right now. The issues about the kitchen table, workspace and so on could all be sorted in due course. Likewise, while she would need his support when the baby was born, the University should be able to be flexible in terms of timings of exams and that actually, a newborn baby is not perhaps as time-consuming as he may be imagining. While he’d need to be on hand, that would be more to help his girlfriend, rather than be responsible for all of the care of the baby. Newborns tend to sleep for the first few weeks or months of their lives and most men don’t tend to take huge amounts of maternity leave. Being there for his girlfriend didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be able to have a few hours to himself every day to catch up on study or revise for exams. The woman’s daughter would be at school, so he might have to help with school runs etc, but it wouldn’t be an unmitigated logistical nightmare. All relationships involve an element of compromise and sacrifice.

I also pointed out to the assembled posters, that contraception can and does fail. We shouldn’t automatically assume the worst of people, especially when BPAS are quoting that over 60% of those presenting for an abortion claim to have been using some form of birth control. Some of the posters had been suggesting BPAS counselling – I pointed out in a matter of fact way that I hadn’t found abortion clinic counsellors either impartial or helpful and that there was the tiny matter of vested financial interests.

So, anyway, having given him some food for thought, without proselytising, but just helping him to see that it could be logistically possible, he countered that having given himself some time to think about it, actually he really did want to have the baby.

But by then it was too late. Thanks to his wobble, his girlfriend had decided that he was too immature and too unstable to be a father and booked in for an abortion. He then began to message me and then text me privately to ask what he should do. His girlfriend claimed that any normal man would have been overjoyed at her news and gone straight round her house with a bunch of flowers to celebrate.

The guy doesn’t deny he messed up, his prevarication had cost him dearly. She was terrified at the prospect of becoming a single mother of two children, she believed that all the work would fall on her shoulders and was unprepared to take the risk. What could he do, he begged me, to convince her how serious he was about her?

Err, get married, I suggested tentatively. Funnily enough, he said, he had planned to propose to her early next year when it was their anniversary and they had a country hotel booked for a friends wedding. He had even asked one of her female friends to scope out a ring. Tell her that, I urged. He did. It was not enough. Start making concrete plans to show how serious you are, was the next suggestion. He did. He already had a savings account set up which he had designated for the baby. Just keep talking to her was my advice, tell her not to rush things.

But no, she repeatedly told him that she needed to be ‘realistic’, she couldn’t trust him and that she would only bring him down. He was going out of his mind with anxiety, texting me to tell me that he thought she might have mental health issues because since deciding to abort she had gone sick from work and was hiding away from the world.

He spoke to her parents, who already knew and they were in agreement with him, feeling that she had been unreasonable and unrealistic in her demands, but understanding that following the collapse of her previous relationship she was feeling vulnerable. They also did not want her to abort the baby.

The young man was worried about the effect of abortion on his girlfriend’s physical and mental health as well. He didn’t identify as ‘pro life’ but he could not see a good reason for her to abort the baby. He desperately wanted to be a father to his little boy or girl. He sent her a series of impassioned and harrowing texts begging her not to take the life of his baby, telling her what a great mother she was, how he wanted to be a proper family with her and her child, how the child would love a sibling. Please, he said, talk to me, cancel the appointment, please don’t kill our innocent baby, please give them a chance. He said that he would take custody of the child, if she was so adamant that she did not want him or her.

I informed a Facebook pro-life group who, together with a monastic community, were storming heaven. The guy had no idea where the abortion was going to take place, or at what time. His girlfriend had shut him down. She wasn’t responding to his texts, apart from to say ‘if you love me then you’ll support and respect my decision’. To which all he could say was that loving someone doesn’t mean validating their destructive actions.

All day my phone was pinging. He hadn’t heard from her, perhaps, he said, our baby is being killed right now. I kept trying to hold out hope for him that she may have had a change of heart, although counselling him that he had done all he could. If she was dead set on the idea, then there was very little he could do to stop her. She didn’t deny it was a baby, but this was all about doing what she believed was right for her. Her last text to him was ‘you need to stop this’.

Anyway, at about 6pm he discovered that she had gone ahead and had the abortion this morning. She had spent most of the day groggy in hospital, but he was angry, because she had appeared to spent much of the afternoon on Facebook instead of telling him. I have told him not to be angry – she is obviously feeling defensive and wanting distraction.

The point of all this? Anecdote is not the plural of data, but here is the story of one baby who has lost their life to abortion this year. A baby who was much wanted by their father and grandparents and initally by their mother. Sharing stories and personal experiences help us to make sense of the world. I want to write this down and share it, by way of memorial to just one of the unborn children who will have lost their lives today. Rest in peace little one. Know that many of us prayed for you. We have the consolation of knowing that you have gone to the Lord.

My thoughts are pretty simple. This is just another demonstration for me of what a wicked and insidious development abortion-on-demand is. There is no happy ending here. A baby has lost their live and a man is at home beside himself with grief. He says he hasn’t been able to sleep or eat properly for weeks or concentrate on work. A formerly loving relationship is in tatters, with both parties harbouring feelings of anger and resentment. A mother has to deal with the repercussions of her decision while at the same time, caring for her child.

Not once in his man’s decision was there an element of patriarchy, wanting to control her uterus or chain her to the kitchen sink. This guy realised that he loved his unborn baby and wanted them to live. The reality of abortion means that every single pregnancy becomes a lifestyle choice and children are given a specious right – to be meticulously planned and born into ‘perfect’ circumstances which supercedes their basic right to life. Had abortion not been an option, he wouldn’t have had his damaging wobble and would have stepped up to the plate sooner. But we are all now conditioned to think not of new life, not of a baby, but of choice.

The abortion clinic who carried this out have neglected their duty of care and potentially broken the law. If there were mental health issues necessitating abortion then these needed to be further investigated and treated. Though they only appeared to manifest once the decision had been taken. But if the mother gave the reason as being that she had trust issues with her boyfriend, this case wouldn’t seem to neatly fall within section C of the act.

There’s also a lesson in there somewhere about the wisdom of believing that committing to have a baby with someone is a different thing from enjoying a long term sexual relationship with them. The greatest commitment one can give to another is to be open to the possibility of having a baby with them. Stripping sex of a procreative element, inherently strips it of an element of commitment. But that’s for another time. I think the guy has been foolish, but I don’t blame him for it, he’s no different to most men in contemporary society. The feminists who would shout their abortions would no doubt lynch both him and me for being manipulative, but I see no winners, no victory, no progress and certainly no joy in this woman having exercised her ‘reproductive right.’.

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Ask me what comes to mind when I think of a ten year old girl and I immediately picture my own, recently-turned-eleven, daughter. Her school has just transitioned into summer uniform and so I imagine her in her striking and smart tartan dress with puffed sleeves and a white collar, a red wool blazer and fetching straw boater with school badge and red ribbons. I image her spindly legs in white ankle socks, think of the tangle of hair that she’s not very adept at brushing, the knots I have to tease out for her and I think of her mannerisms and personality. Sometimes desperately childlike, mad on chocolate, overuses the word ‘adorable’ (especially when referring to dogs and babies), sometimes socially awkward, shy and introverted, sometimes the polar opposite, photo-bombing at every opportunity, sometimes the stroppy, lazy adolescent that she potentially will be in a few years time and sometimes an incredibly mature, thoughtful and considerate young lady. One who will pro-actively shepherd her younger siblings up to bed, into their pyjamas, brush their teeth and read them a story at bedtime, in an attempt to help, as she sometimes did when she spotted that mummy was exhausted in the latter stages of pregnancy.

What doesn’t come to mind when you ask me about a ten year old girl is the image of a pregnant woman. Such a thing is just too dreadful to contemplate, not simply because of the loss of innocence, but because for such a thing to have happened would mean that my little girl had been through a brutal, violent and phsyically agonising ordeal which her little body is not ready to take and which no child should ever have to endure. A pregnant ten year old is the victim of child sex abuse and what mother or father ever wants to envisage their child in that situation? As for were she to be pregnant – I’d be terrified that her little body would snap and break under the ordeal.

Naturally then, this case of a pregnant ten year old in Paraguy, raped and pregnant by her step-father fills the world with horror and repugnance, not only at what the poor child has been through, but at what lies in front of her, be that a late-stage abortion or childbirth. When we think of ten year olds, we don’t think of women but of underdeveloped girls, most of whom bear no outward signs of womanhood and who have not undergone puberty. I’ve only recently been through pregnancy again myself; the relentless sickness, the crippling tiredness and the embarrassing intimate problems. It’s nine months of discomfort, of confusing symptoms, complete abandonment of control and of tremendous emotional and physical upheaval. For the most part in today’s society the experience is rendered more acceptable because  it’s a freely undertaken choice with a desired outcome. An adult means to an adult end. Not an ordeal inflicted upon an ill-equipped, vulnerable young child.

But then how much of this is projection? While most Western 10 year old girls have not yet reached puberty, evidence suggests that not only is puberty beginning earlier, hence the drive for sex education at an ever-younger age, but also that different ethnic groups, such as African and Hispanics, may start puberty at around the age of 8. The idea of a pregnant child ought to continue to horrify us, but put very crudely, if a 10 year-old is actually able to conceive a child, presumably her body ought to be sufficiently developed to bear it? I can think of a few children within my daughter’s peer group who unbelievably already tower above me height wise, who have begun puberty and who most definitely look older than their years. It might be that this poor abused 10 year old is actually physically capable of delivering her child.

For the avoidance of doubt, that a child is able to conceive, is not an argument to suggest that they should conceive or even deliver a child of their own – the late stages of pregnancy and childbirth exact an enormous toll on even a fully-developed adult woman, but there isn’t evidence to suggest that pregnancy for every single, pre-teen is life-threatening. In this particular dreadful instance, nobody save the clinicians knows the medical specifics and so all the talk about it being life-threatening is a mixture of understandable projection and hyperbole. We imagine ourselves or children we know and love, being pregnant at the age of ten and are horrified. Currently the UK’s youngest mother was a 12 year old, who conceived at the age of 11 and a quick Wikki search demonstrates that there have been some mothers as young as 9 and 10.

What we do know, is that this pregnancy was discovered when the child was 22 weeks pregnant. The short-term future is none too pleasant either way. The fetus, if we going to pander to the popular de-humanising euphemism, is already a fully formed human being, discernably a real person with a face, eyelashes, hair, arms, legs, fingers, toes who will be kicking, swallowing, smiling, sucking their thumb and whatever. There’s no ‘easy’ way to abort at that stage. There’s no pill to pop to bring about an early miscarriage and no quick suction procedure. We’re talking about a 10 year old being asked to deliver a deceased 22 week baby, or a difficult, gruesome, potentially dangerous surgical procedure. Afterwards the child can expect to experience her milk coming in and will have the trauma of a lost baby to deal with, as if she didn’t already have enough to cope with.

The other option is for her to give birth. Again, not something that one would wish to inflict upon a 10 year old. But given the stage in her pregnancy, taking at face value the assertions that her life is at risk (which don’t seem to be evidenced anywhere) surely the kindest, most compassionate thing to do would be to continue to strictly monitor the child and then deliver her baby via cesarian section, under general anesthetic, as soon as it becomes necessary.

In terms of whether or not the girl ought to raise the baby, that surely ought to be a matter for her. What isn’t being reported is what her feelings are on the matter, all we know is that the mother has requested an abortion for her daughter, although the mother has also been arrested for breaching duty of care and being an accomplice to child abuse. According to Fox News Latino, she reported that her daughter was being sexually abused last January and yet continued to live with the perpetrator. She has also provided a number of false clues as to his whereabouts.  We do not know and we cannot speculate on the mother’s motives, however it’s interesting to note that the mother’s wishes are being given weight or seen as taking precedence whereas in other cases in the UK of a pre-teen requesting abortion or contraception, provided the child is deemed to meet Gillick competence, the parents’ wishes would be overruled or they would not even be informed.

But it’s difficult to see how abortion could serve to make the issue any better in this unimaginably awful situation. Even had she been immediately granted a 22 week abortion, it would have been no walk in the park, however surely even a 10 year old, while she might lack the emotional maturity to cope with pregnancy, childbirth and a young baby, surely ought to be given the time to come to terms with the situation and have some input into the decision. Why would instantly whipping the baby out in a late-stage abortion have been the right thing to do, it would only have served to inflict more violence upon an already abused and hurting child and removed yet more autonomy from her.

And the elephant in the room is of course the unborn child, who is deemed to be of no consequence with no right to exist; their very presence being synonymous with atrocity. Why would it be so unfeasible for the child to be adopted and raised by a loving couple, or for the child herself to keep her baby, presuming this was what she wanted? Why is abortion being touted as the only solution in this instance?

I’m not denying that the pregnancy can not sometimes be high risk for adolescents, one of the factors being lack of prenatal care, I’m not advocating that ten year olds ought be having babies, I’m not assuming that a ten year old giving birth is like shelling peas, however what I am questioning is why it is being reported that the child’s life is at risk if she does not have an abortion. What health condition would the proposed abortion treat? As she is under the care of the authorities, then surely her pre-natal care will be better than for many others in her situation?

The other pressing question is why on earth Amnesty International have seen fit to get involved, what has this case got to do with someone being detained or imprisoned for their political beliefs? It is claimed that the girl is being forced to continue with an unwanted pregnancy, which is tantamount to torture and indeed no-one would want to inflict an unwanted pregnancy or child upon a child, however we are only being told that the mother requested the abortion for her daughter, not what the daughter’s thoughts are. Since when did Amnesty become an organisation about promoting pro-choice, abortion ideology instead of being about basic human rights, of which the right-to-life should be paramount? The word Amnesty is derived from the Greek, meaning ‘forgetfulness’, clearly the organisation has forgotten the Catholicism of their founder and there is to be no amnesty for the unborn children deemed burdensome due to potential maternal poverty.

Just as various groups exploited and politicised the tragedy of Savita Halapannaver to lobby for liberal abortion in Ireland, the same thing seems set to be happening in Paraguy.

What has happened is revolting and indefensible. It really is one of those compassionate hard cases for whom the Abortion Act in 1967 was devised. But it’s not clear how a latej-stage abortion performed upon a 10 year old girl by request of her mother, who happens to be married to her abuser, would go any way towards helping the girl on her long journey of healing.

Easy to say when it’s not my daughter, especially as I hear the strains of her earnestly practicing the piano floating up through the floorboards, bashing out Beethoven without a care in the world. But then I think of her cradling her baby brother, or tenderly helping her younger sisters and know that however terrible the ordeal she had been through, coaxing her to get rid of her own baby, even if it was with her best interests at heart, would not necessarily be the right answer. Please God, it’s something with which few mothers will ever be faced.

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One example of female decision making in pregnancy

One example of female decision-making in pregnancy

Imagine if I rocked up to the doctor and said look “I’m really unhappy with the fact that after having four babies, I’ve got a few flabby bits, my breasts have lost some of their youthful perkiness and so I need you to refer me to a cosmetic surgeon as soon as possible as I just can’t cope with the body that I’ve got”.

Their response would register somewhere on the scale between amusement and exasperation, and even if I professed a suicidal intent or poor quality of life due to dissatisfaction with my post-childbirth figure, most likely they would advise other measures such as diet and exercise alongside psychological counselling to get to the root of the problem. The same would apply in the case of serious body or gender dysmorphia; no doctor would refer a patient for an amputation as an instant salve for a distorted body image or would straightaway prescribe hormonal treatment for a woman who believed she should have been born a male.

But what if in any of these cases the woman wailed “but I’m a woman, it’s my body and I know my body and healthcare needs better than you and your years of medical training. I know that I need this procedure now and the NHS needs to provide me with it”? The answer would still be a resounding no, although patient intuition, rationale and desires should never be excluded when forming a clinical judgement, the role of the doctor or medic should be to objectively examine the facts of the case and use their medical expertise and experience to determine the appropriate outcome, which will at times be at odds with what the patient was hoping for.

Factors such as gender, sexuality or race are only ever considerations, never the determining factor. You can’t just go to the doctor with a set of expectations which you believe should be met on the basis of your sex.

Yet this is precisely what BPAS, one of the UK’s largest abortion providers are aiming for with their ‘trust women’ campaign, expounded here by Clare Murphy one of their directors, which has the express purpose of formally liberalising the abortion law. When a decision involves fertility and reproduction, then the woman’s gender should take precedence in the decision, regardless of whether or not she may be misinformed in some way, or whether or not her decision is a sensible or even moral one.

The argument is slickly framed in the usual compassionate terms about women getting the care that they need and deserve and is superficially reasonable and appealing – a woman should be able to decide the course of action that is right for her, but the massive elephant in the room, is the unborn baby who as ever, is conspicuous by their absence.

If the decisions about reproduction didn’t involve an unborn child, no reasonable person would attempt to dictate to a woman what she should do with her body (although they could make a reasonable case as to whether or not the NHS ought to fund such decisions), but there is not simply one body involved in the case of pregnancy.

The simple fact of the matter is that an unborn child is not a part of the woman’s body, it has an entirely separate genetic code, often a separate blood type or race and crucially it is possible for a foetus to die while a mother lives and vice versa. This would not be possible if the mother and baby were one and the same. Even the late atheist Christopher Hitchens who was himself an abortion advocate admitted that embryology conceded morality, stating that an ‘uborn child, even when used in a politicized manner, is a material reality’.

The existence of an unborn child undermines the entire crux of this argument which is wholly centred around a woman’s body. ‘Trust me to make the decision as to whether or not to kill my unborn baby, because I’m a woman.’

I’d love to see how a similar campaign waged by males would play out. “Trust me as to whether or not I want to pay child support, or form a relationship with my child, I’m a male and therefore best placed to know whether or not I want to be a father. Only men can determine the extent to which they should be involved in their children’s lives”.

Perhaps the most disingenuous and ironic aspect of the campaign is the attempt to conflate decisions about childbirth with abortion when the aims and outcomes of both procedures are in direct contravention of each other. Murphy convincingly argues that “women should have access to unbiased, evidenced-based information about all their options, delivered in a way that seeks to inform, but not persuade a woman with all modes of delivery on the table”.

It sounds all very wonderful and idealistic, but the reality is that childbirth is a messy, unpredictable business with the potential for things to go disastrously wrong and therefore while women should be informed of their options, there are instances where certain scenarios should be off the table, especially when we are talking about a taxpayer-funded health care system and taking into account that there are two lives at stake.

When it comes to giving birth, it is important that a woman is in as comfortable and stress-free environment as possible, but the choice of surroundings or pain relief should never endanger her safety or that of her unborn baby. Unusually perhaps for a woman who has never managed to give birth without direct medical intervention, I am a big advocate of home births and natural births where at all possible and wary of the over-medicalisation of childbirth, which in my case has led to a cascade of cesarean sections.

But when, as in my case, a midwifery supervisor tells you that if you were to give birth at home, it’s likely that you would bleed to death due to a previous history of hemorrhage, and that she cannot sanction it, is that unbiased and not persuasive? Does that really leave all options on the table? What about when an obstetrician informs you that your baby is presenting in a transverse or oblique position and cannot therefore be born naturally without killing you both?

As every mother knows, you can do all the reading you like, be as informed as possible, but when it comes to childbirth you need to be flexible enough to rip up that treasured dream of floating in a pool of candlelit water and do whatever is necessary to get the child out as safely as possible.

If abortion is to be compared with birth, then the doctor’s assessment of best interests is paramount. The idea that a woman’s gender makes her judgement and decisions unimpeachable is infantalising dangerous baloney, which does women no favours whatsoever. Since when did being a women render one’s medical and moral judgement infallible? Where is the evidence demonstrating that being in possession of specific set of reproductive organs improves one’s critical thinking or decision making skills?

If it’s true that we might not always like or approve of certain reproductive decisions, whether childbirth or abortion related, then it is certainly legitimate to question whether or not the NHS funded by the taxpayer, ought to encourage and endorse them. We know for example, that all other things being equal, that a cesarean section is a much riskier, more complicated and costlier method of delivery than normal childbirth. An elective c-section ought not to be offered as a standard choice for women, unless there are compelling medical reasons which would make a natural delivery unsafe. Equally it is not the general public who should challenge a woman’s decision to home-deliver a complicated pregnancy, as Clare Murphy suggests, but rather her medical team.

The same goes with abortions. In a staggering admission, this director of BPAS says that there are women who might have abortions for reasons which are not quite good enough, but those decisions must still be respected, because it is the woman who has to bear the consequences of those choices. So it’s alright to stand on the sidelines and watch a woman take a disastrous decision because any negative repercussions and resulting suffering is hers alone? She’ll have to cope with it if it all goes wrong and we should make no attempt to interfere, in the same way that presumably we should not attempt to dissuade people from setting off on other destructive courses of actions. All that matters in life is that people have come to their own decisions about their bodies, even if they are bad ones?

In short then, a woman can abort a perfectly healthy baby until 24 weeks on whatever grounds she likes. such as the gender of the baby, or that she’s had an unexpected holiday invite, she wants to appear on the television or even because to continue with the pregnancy puts her at fear of violence or reprisals from her partner or family. A woman’s decision must always be trusted, supported, encouraged and paid for, even if it is born of dubious motives or self-interest. A woman aborting her healthy twins at 23 weeks  whom she’d previously decided to keep, because of family pressures, is the price we have to pay?

Even if the decision is blatantly flawed, unjust and terminates the life of another for no good reason (not that there ever can be a good reason to kill), society must turn a blind eye for the greater good of the (female) cause. Now where else have we seen this logic employed? It all sounds eerily familiar.

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A former friend of Tara Hewitt’s has written her a courageous and moving open letter with regards to her stance on abortion, to which I would like to respond offering an alternative perspective as a post-abortive woman.

What Charlotte has to say is valuable and needs addressing – Lauren Ely writing in this month’s  First Things  said that we need to embrace and listen to the voices of all post-abortive women, women who have had an abortion must be heard rather than ignored or theorised away, even if they may be saying things which we do not want to hear.

I believe that pro-life is pro-woman; marginalising the post-abortion stories that we don’t want to hear is a similar tactic to universities and other institutions that seek to silence a pro-life point of view.

Charlotte starts off by noting Tara’s apparent change of views with surprise and sadness. It’s a reaction that I have received from some of my friends of over 20 years standing who have difficulty reconciling the fun-loving, G&T swilling, Marlboro Red-smoking party animal with the orthodox Catholic mother of 4 children. While I’ll always be fun-loving at heart (and most Catholics are, the craic at Catholic gatherings is legendary) actually I grew up, gained a different perspective and am far more contented and at peace than I was in my twenties. A change of politics is often a sign of maturity, conventional wisdom holds that people become more socially conservative with age. It takes a lot of courage to admit that your former views were misguided or just plain wrong.

The issue of abortion is not some abstract debate for me. I’m not part of any “pro-abortion lobby”, but I do believe in a woman’s right to choose. It’s a right I’ve exercised, having had an abortion in my second year of university-

The same goes for me. The issue of abortion is not an abstract debate either and if you do read this Charlotte, I’m genuinely sorry to hear that you found yourself in a situation where you felt you needed to chose an abortion. I’ve been there too.

When I had an abortion, I didn’t think of it as a right, though that may be because it was back in the late ’90s when attitudes to abortion weren’t thought of rights – the internet was in its infancy and today’s narrative of media feminism including ‘reproductive rights’ hadn’t crossed my radar.

Actually one of the things which really shocked me about the whole process was that I was well aware of the law and believed that I would really need to firmly state my case for wanting an abortion. I understood that this was a serious thing, I did believe that it was a life in theory, but also thought that by the time I had the abortion just under the 9 week stage, it was neither a ‘baby’, nor ‘human’, was not properly formed, no bigger than a grain of rice, wouldn’t feel a thing, and therefore it wasn’t quite as a bad as say, aborting a twins just 1 day shy of the 24 week limit which someone close to me had done, following severe pressure from their family. Anyway, I found that no justification was needed whatsoever, I don’t know whether or not I had counselling, I made an appointment with Marie Stopes, saw a woman in a room with a box of tissues on the table, she asked me why I wanted an abortion, I told her and she responded that I was in no position to be able to cope with a baby.

I never once thought of abortion as being a ‘right’, I was pro-choice in that I thought it was better that women could have safe legal abortions rather than die horribly at the hands of a back-street butcher. Subsequent research  and statistics illustrate that this is something of a popular myth.

Telling me that having the child (though there is no guarantee that it would have survived to term, even without a termination) would have been better is telling me that I should have been forced to be pregnant against my will, at risk to my mental and physical wellbeing, just because that’s what your moral values say. Surely, you can see how unfair that is.

I don’t know how many weeks pregnant you were but statistically speaking once you’ve got to around the 10 week mark, there’s a very good chance that your baby would have made it to term. The UK has unacceptably high levels of stillbirth (death after 24 weeks in pregnancy) compared to other countries, in 2012 1 in 200 births were to a stillborn child, but that’s still a minor risk. 1 in 7 pregnancies end in miscarriage (before 24 weeks) the vast majority occurring in the first trimester.

In terms of being forced to be pregnant against your will which could risk your mental and physical wellbeing, I completely understand. It would be lying to pretend that pregnancy does not put you under physical and mental strain, pregnant women are generally recognised to be vulnerable, they are not ill, but their bodies are working hard to provide sustenance and life support for the baby. Having an unplanned pregnancy in less than ideal circumstances is hard. I can vouch for that. But the point isn’t really about one person trying to impose their moral values on another, but accepting that the baby is a human life (certainly biologically speaking) and therefore abortion, like it or not imposes your moral values on your baby, denies that its life has any value or consequence and terminates it according to your will. It might seem unfair and an attack on bodily autonomy (although they are not a physical part of your body) for you to be prevented from having an abortion, but to be blunt, it’s equally unfair on the unborn child to have their life ended because you do not want to carry them for nine months nor give birth to them, even though you may have felt that you had compelling reasons.

I know that sounds hard and I do sympathise, remember I too have been in your place.

Pregnancy takes a huge toll on a woman’s body, and I have friends who have had conditions like hyperemesis throughout theirentire pregnancy. For them, the child at the end made it all worth it. For me, it would have been nine months of suffering to then give my child away, or raise it in completely unsuitable conditions- a double punishment, and for what? Having the audacity to have sex?

Yep, I’m not going to deny it, pregnancy does exact a massive toll on a woman’s body. I’ve had hyperemesis in all of my pregnancies which at times I have found intolerable, especially with existing toddlers to take care of. I’ve laid on my bed and howled in pain like an injured animal, I can’t go out in the early stages of pregnancy without a stash of plastic bags in my pocket to handily vomit into, throwing up into a rubbish bin on Brighton’s London Road while people walked past in disgust was not one of my finer moments. At times I would have done anything to make the relentless nausea, growing pains and headaches go away, I’ve been terrified that I wouldn’t be able to look after yet another baby or cope, but every time I’ve managed it. I’m no superhero – I think we women are much stronger than perhaps we give ourselves credit for and as you say the baby themselves is always worth it. Besides not every woman finds pregnancy a harrowing experience, some positively bloom! The physical discomfort is only ever temporary and if it were so terrible, women would never have any more than one child.

You say that you would have had to have given your baby away or raise it in unsuitable conditions. Doesn’t that make you want to fight to remedy that injustice, so that women are not forced between a rock and a hard place? Chances are you would not have wanted or been able to give your child away and though it wouldn’t have been easy, I suspect you would have coped. You talk about unsuitable conditions, society encourages us to believe that in order to thrive that a child must be born into certain ‘ideal’ situations. I often talk about this myself in that I believe that it is ideal for a child to be born to married parents and to have a mother and a father. Your situation would have been less than ideal, however many single mothers do a fabulous job and so do many non-conventional families (contrary to what people might have you believe is my stance on this).

While we shouldn’t contrive or encourage however is situations which are less than ideal. In the case of a single mother or young pregnant student – no it isn’t ideal but with the right support she can raise a baby and complete her degree. It is a disgrace that in the case of students there often really is very little practical choice, again it’s something I have personally experienced, I was told that I would not be able to bring a newborn baby to lectures and seminars and yet the nursery wouldn’t admit babies under 6 months old. Accommodation, facilities and opportunities for student parents are either non-existent or low quality. You are made to feel like a pariah. While I do not condone your decision, I can fully understand what motivated you to take it. You could have kept your baby, but it would have been too much of a self-sacrifice, which is not meant pejoratively.

Having a baby should never be thought of as punishment – that’s an attitude that’s often projected onto pro-lifers and one that horrifies me. It says that having a newborn baby is a terrible and dreadful fate whereas most women, even those in very difficult circumstances don’t ever regret their child. Having a baby will always entail some hardship and self-sacrifice, some women will find it more fulfilling than others, but we should be working for a society which always welcomes children. I don’t know of a single pro-lifer who isn’t terribly concerned about the welfare of mothers who have had an unplanned or crisis pregnancy.

I have friends from various faith groups, from Muslim to Mormon, and although many of them might not have an abortion themselves, they’re not coming after my right to.

Abortion isn’t a legal right in this country. The way the law is currently interpreted and practiced can make it seem like that, but you must fulfil one of the prescribed criteria.

You can hold, and express, whatever personal opinions you want but free speech also means the freedom to disagree with you and to hold you to account for what you say. This isn’t about your right to a religion but that you are in a position to impose your views on others who do not share them. You work as a diversity consultant for the NHS where you have an input into patient care, and you are seeking elected office where you will be able to vote on many matters of conscience like abortion and surrogacy.

Completely agree with the first sentence. I think we can accept for many people pro-life views are part and parcel of a religious view, although they can legitimately be held outside of a faith. In terms of imposing views on others – every single person in this country would like to see the law reflect, or impose, their particular viewpoint. You’d like to see the law reflect the point of view that abortion is a right and unborn babies can be terminated. I’d like the law to reflect the right to life of the unborn.

The diversity consultancy role is irrelevant, Tara is not in a position to impose her views on anyone, her input into patient care will not extend to making decisions about terminating pregnancies. There is nothing that Tara has said that would indicate that she would like to punish or cause harm to women seeking abortions or needing aftercare. The elected office is a fair point, although it should be noted that we have elected politicians who do take a similar stance to Tara and a cross-party All Party Parliamentary Pro-life Group. Being pro-life should not disbar you from entering politics though of course the voters have a right to know your views on these matters.

Women who have abortions face enough stigma and shaming, don’t be part of the problem. When you say things like this, it feels like a personal attack. From someone who was once a friend, it’s an extra kick in the teeth. I don’t need you to believe what I did was right or justified, I just need you to stop mouthing off on Twitter about how it isn’t and adding to a ‘debate’ that may one day mean a girl in my situation won’t have the choice I did. I can guarantee I would not be here today if I had been forced to go through with my pregnancy.

The meaning is clear. Charlotte, you are saying that when someone disagrees with your decision, especially if it is a friend then it feels like a personal attack. Sometimes friends have to tell the truth as they see it, a friendship that blindly affirms for the sake of peace is probably not all that genuine. My closest friends often tell me uncomfortable things that I would rather not hear, but I know that they do so with my best interests at heart. I would rather that no-one felt that they had to lie to me.

This is an attempt to shut debate down, by framing your desire not to feel uncomfortable about your abortion as being a need. But let’s talk stigma and shame for a moment.

The ONLY stigma and shame I have ever been made to feel was by two different groups of people. One was the clinic staff, who from start to finish made me feel like a shameful naughty little girl who had been exceptionally stupid. I think this is where a lot of shame comes from when it comes to abortion. Not necessarily the abortion itself (although it often kicks in later when you have a wanted pregnancy) but we are programmed to believe that pregnancy is avoidable, that sex is safe. Therefore when contraception doesn’t work as we’d hoped, whether through user error or other failure we are so used to believing that we are in control of our own fertility and bodies, that we feel stupid, especially if it was our ‘fault’ and the failure was preventable.

Part of this is historic and dare I say due to patriarchal attitudes about a girl having got herself into trouble and so on, but it’s not from the part of pro-lifers or religious people. Without exception every single person who knows that I have had an abortion have told me how sorry they are about it. There has been no judgement, only compassion and love. The ‘judgement’ that post-abortive women often feel, is more often than not projection or an over-sensitivity, drawing inferences which were not meant. Stating that all babies have a right to life is absolutely not the same thing as calling post-abortive women murderers, which is a phrase I am extremely careful not to use, not least as I don’t believe it to be true.

Pro-lifers understand the complexities of unplanned pregnancies far more than they are given credit for; one organisation I know of, literally picks up women off the street who have been chucked out of the clinic early and who are literally vomiting and fainting. They administer first aid, love compassion and care and help the woman to get home safely, i.e. what the clinics should have done. Those are not the actions of haters or judgementalists.

The judgement I have had for having an abortion came from the clinic staff and various pro-choicers as well as liberal ‘Catholics’ who have tried to use my abortion to shame me. “How can she be pro-life when she’s had an abortion herself”. “Having an abortion is not a badge of honour, I don’t know why the Catholics are patting her on the back”. “She wants to deny others the same choice she had herself”. I’ve had my abortion discussed on Twitter by a group of people I’ve never met, making huge assumptions and using it to as a weapon to undermine my credibility.

While I cannot avoid responsibility, I also know that like most women, my decision was not made in a vacuum. I really felt that there was little other choice and used sophistry to argue away the existence of my unborn child. My experience was so horrific and so damaging, that I vowed to fight that no other woman should have to go through it. It is not hypocritical because I don’t for one moment try to justify my abortion as being the right thing for me whilst arguing that nobody else should have it. I recognise that my choice was neither free and the decision was flawed. I can accept that other people will agree with this, whilst still thinking that I am a decent person. What I do know though without a shadow of a doubt, is that I would have been a great mother to the child I aborted despite the obstacles, some of which I over-estimated in my shock, panic and terror.

Can you Charlotte, really guarantee what would have happened had you continued with the pregnancy? From my experience pregnancy is often a terrifying time especially if it’s your first one and sometimes even when its planned, you can have the jitters. There are so many anxieties, your changing body, the prospect of birth, of adapting to being a mother, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the fear of the unknown.

The letter ends with asking Tara to shut up in no uncertain terms, emphasising the idea of bodily autonomy and a woman’s right to life, one which inherently rejects that of the baby or foetus.

Poignantly in the comments, another woman confesses to having an abortion due to contraception failure, states that she believes it was the right thing, she would be a ruinous mother, but nonetheless, despite going on to have two children, she still suffers from guilt. An NHS diversity consultant condemning her, only exacerbates that.

Here’s the thing. Many women will feel guilty post-abortion because they will instinctively know that they have taken action to end the life of their child. Memories of abortion are often resurrected in subsequent pregnancies. I felt guilty after mine, not because of some sort of religious programming or cultural indoctrination (my parents are firmly pro-choice and my Catholic school didn’t go in for pro-life education) but because philosophically I think I’d always accepted life began at conception. There was also an intuitive visceral ache immediately afterwards.

But this guilt is neither deserved, nor is it imposed, it stems from the conscience which knows that a life with all it’s potential, has ended. Hence the ‘what if’. A pro-life, anti-abortion viewpoint is often painful to post-abortive women which is why they don’t wish it expressed. The ‘judgement’ or ‘condemnation’ they feel is imagined, no pro-lifers hate or condemn me or any woman who has had an abortion. A viewpoint that says ‘abortion is wrong’ confirms any anxieties or negative feelings that a woman may have had and understandably causes defensiveness.

But the upshot is not that Charlotte, or the anonymous commentator are nasty, uncaring, bad, immoral, feckless, ignorant or naive women. They made a decision to terminate the life of an unborn child,  in difficult circumstances. Making a wrong decision is not indicative of moral character or fibre. The decision may be wrong, it doesn’t follow that the person is therefore a ‘bad-un’.

Do we have to be so reliant on the affirmation of others that we have to shut or shout them down? Or is there something else deep-seated and unresolved, hence the recurrent feelings of guilt and anger?

There are plenty of secular and religious organisations out there who can help with post-abortion counselling and who do not judge women or introduce elements of guilt  but help them to talk through their feelings about and come to terms with their abortion experience. Sometimes just acknowledging the loss can prove enormously healing.

If you have read this far – thank you. For what it’s worth my faith tells me both of our children will be in heaven, praying for us.

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