There are some unforgettable moments. When I practised as a midwife in a remote area of Zambia, I would regularly accompany the mobile ante-natal and Under-Five clinic to even more remote villages. Often this would mean setting up in a classroom or even inside the church where villages had no school. Women would walk for miles carrying their ‘bump’ or their small children for what was both an important medical and social event.
There were many occasions when, opening up my bag, I would bring out a little portable electronic contraption that would allow both me and a pregnant woman to hear the heartbeat of her unborn baby. The women in these isolated villages had no idea that it was possible to listen to the baby. It was a sacred moment. Suddenly, the whole world ceased to exist outside the regular beating of a tiny heart. A woman’s entire concentration focussed inwards, an indescribable smile of wonder radiating her face. After a few moments, I would take her hands in mine and show her how to feel the baby’s head, back and, if we were fortunate, arms and legs. This was also something beyond her imagination. If she was pregnant for the first time and accompanied by her mother, I would allow the grandmother to feel her grandchild. Words cannot describe the amazement, unity and beauty of that moment.
Several weeks ago, a beautiful television documentary showed pregnancy from a different angle. It has long been known that an unborn baby can hear from a very early age and can distinguish, not only between loud sounds, but also between voices. In this documentary, a mother spoke to her baby as the midwife scanned her uterus. Its heart rate increased immediately as it recognised her voice. Then, the father spoke to his baby. Not only did its heart beat faster, it started kicking with excitement!
Sadly, and for whatever reason, not everybody shares the joy of knowing that there is a new life growing and moving, waiting for the time when he or she can emerge into the wider world.
Since the passing of the Abortion Act in 1967, there have been over six and a half million terminations in the UK alone, at a rate of 500 every working day. Tragically, one in every four pregnancies now ends in abortion.
By anyone’s standards, this is unacceptable. Looking at the abortion statistics around the world, maybe we aren’t as “bad” as other countries; but . . . . 500 a day!!! We are also talking about the 500 mothers who are involved in those statistics, many who are very deeply affected. Though rarely mentioned in the abortion debate, fathers of aborted babies are also affected, but they have no legal standing to prevent the abortion of their child! Grandparents and families too who, not expecting to be denied a child or grandchild, are unwillingly forced to accept a life lost and who need help to make sense of all that has happened.
The mother herself is often a victim; the decision to have an abortion is frequently made when she is frightened and vulnerable and, at the time, sees it as the only answer to her problems. She can then spend the rest of her life coming to terms with what has happened.
Even women who thought that they went into the abortion with open eyes and ready to accept the consequence, can, afterwards, find themselves overwhelmed with regret and, unable to turn back the clock, many suffer literally years of distress. What was done was done and cannot be undone.
Abortion is never simple; it is always a tragedy! But it also requires considerable sensitivity, compassion and understanding, especially for those who wish it had never happened.
Thankfully, there are groups in Britain who recognise that a real need exists and are working hard to support women and girls who want to keep their baby, offer non-directive pre-abortion counselling to women considering abortion (helping them to consider the other options) and provide post abortion counselling. Such groups are dependent on the ongoing support of various charitable individuals and especially parishioners of parishes around the country, who offer baby clothes and equipment and financial support.
As well as being one of the most active supporters of pregnant women and new mothers, Right To Life (RTL) is a leading political lobbying group and in conjunction with the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Committee (APPLG) works constantly to preserve and protect the lives of those threatened by abortion, euthanasia and related activities.
On 4th September, 2010 RTL has organised its fifth sponsored walk across the eight miles of Morecambe Bay.