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Family planning

Abortion: Why are we still fighting about this?

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TheNewCinders · 13/09/2011 11:51

Nadine Dorries, a Conservative backbencher and an educated woman, has this week put forward suggestions for amendments to the Health and Social Care bill stating that abortion providers should not be able to offer counselling as well.

Thankfully, so far, David Cameron, a man and in charge, has said he will not follow through with these amendments. But the debate has been opened and as a matter of conscience, party members do not have to follow the party line.

Apparently the issue is that Ms Dorries is concerned that the abortion providers will be biased into persuading girls and women into having the termination. But as far as I was aware, working in an abortion clinic doesn?t mean wanting to destroy all babies, just as becoming a doctor doesn?t mean wanting everyone to be ill.

I would have thought that the abortion clinics are going to be the very best at offering the necessary counselling. They will be a wealthy resource of having seen it all before, knowing what to expect as a reaction, calming panic and helping scared girls and women to make a life changing choice whichever they decide.

Plus, as a decision that needs to be made quickly, keeping the system simple and efficient surely reduces the impact such a traumatic experience can have. Whether having the baby or the abortion, the quicker the woman can be returned to their healthy life the better.

Having been through this, I am extremely thankful for the expertise and professionalism at Marie Stopes in Bristol. Accidentally pregnant by a man who I definitely did not want to remain connected to in any way, there was no way I could consider keeping the child. I would like another baby one day - but not on my own again, and with another absent father. I also needed to clear the sense of violation from myself. So the abortion was booked within two days; I was given counselling before and after, and then offered more should I need it. I was able to freely discuss my decision, my reasons and my concerns. And knowing that I had a number to call should it all get a bit much made me feel safer. This was never a situation I had ever imagined myself being in; I certainly didn?t take it lightly no matter how much I knew it was right.

The abortion itself made me really unwell. Thankfully my Little Sis and Sis-in-Law looked after me and my two children: without them I am not sure how I would have managed those first two days.

The knowledge that my doctor and Marie Stopes were just at the end of the phone were essential to getting through - it meant that Little Sis was happy to let me go home. It meant that I had someone to call when the bleeding got very heavy and I got scared.

If anything, in the beginning the counsellor was surprised I was so decided. She very much led the conversation as if to expect reservations and emotional angst. She did not have any bias towards the abortion, and if anything, she just wanted to just make sure I was okay.

But a couple of my friends have not had such positive experiences of this difficult situation. Both went through their GPs and went to the hospital for their terminations. Neither were given what I consider to be adequate counselling.

Both have since suffered as a result of their choice. Both have mentioned remembering due dates and thinking about the birthdays and what the child would look like. Both have mentioned feeling a little dirty while sitting waiting next to young teenage mums and women with visibly questionable morals (who in my opinion would need even better care). Both of these women would have avoided this trauma if they had gone to Marie Stopes like I did.

Through Marie Stopes I was offered phone counselling so I could make my choice discreetly, in house counselling so I could see someone, and after-termination care to make sure I returned to a healthy and happy life.

Fourteen years ago as a teenager with a bad-man-boyfriend I made a different choice. I don?t regret that choice, but the last fourteen years have been hard enough I had no intention of repeating them. Faced with a similar situation, I had two choices: one to prove that I had learned nothing and made no progress in fourteen years and do exactly the same thing again. Or two, to take control and put a stop to the situation before it got difficult. I am reconciled with that choice, and I am happy with the services offered by the women at Marie Stopes.

Dorries describes herself as pro-choice and that her amendments are meant to empower women. But as a dirty topic, and something still so controversial, I don?t see how restricting the services offered by abortion clinics is going to help. If anything more counselling, advice and awareness should be offered. Not everyone has the same clarity and decisiveness, supportive friends and family, and trust in my choices as I have. If I was more vulnerable, any less than the service provided my Marie Stopes would have been seriously inadequate.

Abortion is not for everyone: rightly so. I have never believed that it would be something I would ever do. And as a woman in my thirties I had always assumed that if I got pregnant I was in a good position to look after another child. But the time was not right, and it is not right to bring a child into this world that isn?t going to have the best chance at life with supportive and loving parents. If you don?t want the baby, how on Earth is that baby going to grow into a beautiful human being?

In reality if abortion is something you have considered for even a second, then help should be easily available and of excellent service. Whether counselling you to a place where you will make a good parent, or helping you through a termination, this service is essential. To keep this as a dirty and restricted subject only means too many girls find it too difficult to sort out and end up having children when they can?t look after themselves. At the very end of the day, it shouldn?t matter what side of the fence you sit: the individual?s right to choose should count most, and when making that choice help should be easy and successful.

Dorries should get back on her bench; if she wants ?better care? for ?women in distress? she should realise that one call and one visit is sometimes more than someone in distress can manage. If she really wants to help, she should invest in Marie Stopes and make sure that this level of care is available to all.

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