(This article was first published by the Christian Medical Fellowship.)
UK abortion provider BPAS has launched a campaign to legalise abortion-on-demand, up-to-birth, for any reason. Parliament is considering debating the issue. For more information on this see here.
The following are my own personal reflections:
My daughter was born at 27 weeks gestational age. She came unexpectedly early, weighed just 2lbs and looked very fragile. Yet she was perfectly formed, alive and a fighter from the beginning. I remember her tiny fingers strongly holding onto my index finger. She had a good thick crop of hair, dark eyelashes, and over the next 2 weeks she would look at me with an intense gaze, responding physically to sound and to touch. She remained in hospital for 8 weeks until she was well enough to come home. By then she weighed 4lbs, but to us she looked huge! She is now 18 and a beautiful, resilient and determined girl. She has had mild asthma throughout her life and missed a fair bit of schooling through colds and chest infections, but that hasn’t stopped her from achieving and living a full life and is about to start university.
We had a repeat episode in neonatal intensive care when six years later our son was born. At 26 weeks, he was even a week earlier than our daughter. Like her, he has developed and grown well and is very healthy.
There has been no known reason for my premature labours. I wouldn’t wish on anyone the emotional rollercoaster of the first few weeks of being a parent of a premature baby, but it did place my husband and I in a unique position to view (and for many, many hours!) first-hand the development of a baby from 26 weeks, which is normally unseen in the womb.
It is one thing to read objectively that the unborn baby is capable of hearing, feeling pain and sensory stimuli. As early as 7-10 weeks, a baby’s moves are developed including hiccupping, frowning, squinting, furrowing the brow, pursing the lips, moving individual arms and legs, head turning, touching the face, breathing (without air), stretching, opening the mouth, yawning, and sucking. At 6 months baby will be able to hear, and he or she nestles in her favourite positions to sleep, and stretches upon waking up.
It was incredible to witness this development of a pre-termer first-hand. Speak to any mother of a premature baby born after 22 weeks – they will tell you that it isn’t an unfeeling foetus that they’ve given birth to; it is a unique, sensitive and responsive baby, already a ‘person’.
Which is why the upper time limit of our country’s abortion law, the cut-off point when an abortion is legally allowed to be carried out, already falls too high, at 24 weeks. Seven in ten women want a lower time limit for abortion, as more and more babies born before 24 weeks of gestation survive. A ComRes poll conducted in May 2008 found that 72 per cent of women thought the cut-off point for abortion should be earlier in light of improved survival rates among babies born at a stage when they could legally have been aborted. 73 per cent of women said that the limit should be lowered to 20 weeks or below, given that the limit is no more than 12 weeks in most other EU countries.
It is also why I was particularly concerned to read The Telegraph’s article this week about the ‘We Trust Women’ campaign. The premise is that women know what’s best for themselves and shouldn’t face prosecution if they self-induce abortion of their unborn child, even through the third trimester up until term.
The article states “The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has now launched a campaign to finally decriminalise abortion in the UK so the procedure can be regulated in the same way as all other women’s healthcare”.
Now I am a feminist. I believe that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men. I am also an advocate of women’s rights and of equality, especially in healthcare.
But abortion is often not the best healthcare for women. Arguments for curbing the availability of abortion are supported by mounting evidence that the practice is actually harmful to a women’s physical and emotional wellbeing. In a 2011 study, the largest of its kind and published in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers concluded that women having abortions experience an 81 per cent increased risk of mental health problems. It also found almost 10 per cent of all mental health problems in women are shown to be directly linked to abortion. Abortion has also been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer and subsequent premature labours.
Several pro-abortion, women’s and feminist groups are backing this campaign.
Royal College of Midwives chief executive Cathy Warwick said it had the RCM’s full support. ‘It is about them (women) having control over their own body and not having their bodies subject to the diktats of others, however well meaning.’
I am a nurse, and in the course of my job I meet midwives, both graduates and students, who value the sanctity of life in the unborn baby, and who don’t share Cathy’s view. They are strongly opposed to legally allowing abortion at whatever stage of pregnancy and I would like to question what consultation the RCM has conducted with its members to voice this opinion and whether it is truly representative of all midwives.
I do not want to belittle the impact and the implications of an unwanted or inconvenient pregnancy, and what is often an extremely challenging and difficult circumstance. Women need maximum support at this time, and the opportunity to have unbiased counselling that includes all possibilities, including adoption. Let’s campaign for investment and easier access to tailored support in the common areas of financial stressors, relationship problems, education concerns or parenting challenges that cause many women to choose an abortion.
But this isn’t just an issue of woman’s healthcare or rights or women’s choice. Another life is involved here. Another life with rights to protect, and let’s remember that 50 per cent of these unborn babies are females. I, like many, believe in the intrinsic worth of every human being regardless of race, religion, gender, or ability, from womb to tomb.
The advocates of the We Trust Women campaign call the current legislation against women aborting “cruel and archaic”.
It’s certainly not cruel to the voiceless and defenceless unborn child it protects.
ACTION: IF YOU ARE A MIDWIFE, MATERNITY SUPPORT WORKER OR STUDENT MIDWIFE: Put your name to the joint NOT IN OUR NAME open letter that will be sent to the Royal College of Midwives voicing midwives’ concern about the lack of consultation on this extreme policy and demand that the RCM revoke their support for the campaign to legalise abortion up-to-birth for any reason.
Click here to sign the joint letter.
Once you have signed the joint letter, also contact the Royal College of Midwives directly, voicing your concern about this policy
Click here to contact the Royal College of Midwives.
Let the public know about how uncomfortable you are with this new policy – write to your local newspaper, share your concern on social media – and let the Royal College of Midwives know about your concerns on their Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.
IF YOU ARE FROM THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Contact the Royal College of Midwifes and voice your dissatisfaction about the policy and the lack of consultation, and demand that they revoke it. Remember to be polite and reasonable. If you are looking for some good points to make in your correspondence, check out the open letter here.
Pippa Jones is a nurse and a mother of three.