Anticipating the inevitable and indignant outrage of some outspoken abortion advocates, the Australian pro- life community look forward to the tour of David Bereit, founder of the ‘40 Days for Life’ campaign in the U.S, that begins this week.
Indeed, David would be considered very “un-PC” by some - a white Christian male from the Bible Belt in the US… but what he and his colleagues have discovered, through their daily attendance at abortion clinics, liasing constantly with women in crisis, should have us seriously rethinking how women really see abortion .
David Bereit serves as director of 40 Days for Life, an initiative that has mobilised more than half a million people in 440 cities, across all 50 American states and fourteen countries over the last five years. It is a focused pro-life campaign working to end abortion through prayer and fasting, peaceful vigils outside abortion facilities, and grassroots outreach and education in local communities. To date it has seen at least 69 abortion workers leave their jobs, 23 abortion centres go out of business and 5,928 women change their minds and continue their pregnancies.
Chris Charbonneau, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood in Western Washington said that “We know from past experiences that these rallies and prayer vigils create barriers that deter our patients”.
Whether we agree with the 40 Days for Life campaign or not, its success certainly demands that we take a closer look at what is happening in abortion clinics in the name of “choice” and ask why so many women are accepting the assistance of often complete strangers as they are going in to have abortions.
Does this peaceful 40 Days for Life campaign highlight that for many women, abortion is not a “choice”, but rather a desperate measure driven by the difficult circumstances they find themselves in – and when given a last minute offer of help, they are taking it – internationally, by the thousands?
In her recent article (SMH.com.au. Call for free abortions as needy women priced out of procedure. August 6, 2012), , Adele Horin refers to three pregnant women who sought urgent help from Blacktown Hospital – one in a domestic violence situation, one homeless, and another considered to be unable to care for her children, who were in the care of community Services. As the old saying goes - “Desperate situations call for desperate measures”.
An extensive study of over 200 scientific papers concluded that the primary motivation for abortion is a lack of financial, material and emotional support. Very few women, it seems, ‘want’ an abortion. But all too many ‘need’ one as a result of their circumstances.
It is for women such as these that the 40 Days for Life campaign exists – to offer hope and assistance and it is women in these difficult circumstances that the 40 Days for Life team see on a daily basis.
Consider abortion cases that have been publicised in recent years, the trial of Tegan Leach in Queensland (for procuring an abortion with a drug imported from the Ukraine), the abortion of “the wrong twin” at 32 weeks at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, the deaths of two Australian women in the last year alone and near deaths of others and the infection of some 50 women with Hepatitis C. Could all of these devastating situations have been avoided had appropriate measures been in place to support these mothers in need? We will never know.
What we do know, and what is blaringly obvious from the success of the 40 Days for Life campaign, is that our society is failing women – failing to meet their needs and they are turning to surgical procedures to meet their economic and social problems. This is where David Bereit and his colleagues have unveiled a gap in services and a need to step in to advocate for them and for their families.
In Australia, 40 Days for Life vigils have been run at different locations, and some Australia women have accepted the support offered. It is hoped that David’s visit will inspire campaigns at more of the 50 private clinics in this country.
David Bereit values the work of independent groups, who have set up pregnancy support facilities in all major Australian cities, telephone counselling Australia-wide and who are providing much needed financial support for International students who are ineligible for Medicare, at risk of abortion because they are unable to pay for the birth of their babies. But it is obvious that many women in need are still falling through the cracks, turning to abortion – described by Germaine Greer as “the last non choice in a long list of non choices.”
As a mother of three daughters, I worry about what might happen if one of my teenage daughters were to find themselves in the midst of a crisis pregnancy. A medical abortion is available in most centres for the price of two GP visits. Some States don’t require parental notification in the case of a minor.
With abortion more accessible to them than a piercing or tattoo, I hope someone’s waiting outside the clinic to provide a helping hand if my daughter ever ‘wants’ an abortion.