Women who’ve had abortions warn over law reform

Radio NZ Morning Report 6 November 2018
As proposals to decriminalise abortion are underway, a group of women who have had abortions took out newspaper advertisements urging Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to be cautious about reform. The ads were partly-funded by anti-abortion group Family First. Barbara Hill is one of the women. She talks to Susie Ferguson.

“It’s not that we are anti-abortion as much as we wish to have an enquiry about the cost for women of having an abortion – the emotional cost.” She says when she had an abortion 41 years ago she did not have counselling, describing it as an “expedient process”. “I just stepped on the medical conveyor-belt and the next thing I was being offered an abortion.”

She says in her work running a course for abortion recovery she has dealt with about 50 to 100 women. “All those women report the same thing – that there’s usually no pre-decision counselling.” “I’m going on the experience of women who’ve had an abortion even six months ago.” Mrs Hill says she took part in the newspaper advertisement because she wants to see expanded choices for women.

“It’s being treated as a medical issue but perhaps not as an emotional issue… We may have thought 40 years ago it was the removal of a cluster of cells, but I don’t see women grieving over the loss of an appendix or tonsils, yet I see women sometimes grieving for decades, and that tells me they are suffering because it’s been the loss of a child. “I think we need to bring all points of view to the table and have a healthy, robust discussion about this… There are women like me who stay silent, and that’s part of the problem – we don’t actually openly express the fact there have been consequences in our life.”

Family First targets abortion reform with full page ad
NewsTalk ZB 4 November 2018 

Family First is trying to prick the Prime Minister’s conscience, in a debate about abortion. The conservative lobby group has taken out a full page ad in today’s papers to ask: when does human life begin?

The ad points out the difficulty in defining the moment a foetus becomes a human whether it’s at conception, birth, or somewhere in between. Labour campaigned on abortion reform, and Jacinda Ardern wants it taken out of the Crimes Act. The open letter is signed by mothers who’ve had abortions. They acknowledge it’s a complex debate, and they’re urging Ardern to err on the side of caution in any law change.

Women pen open letter to PM urging caution over abortion reform
NewsHub 4 November 2018 
A group of eight women who have had abortions have published an open letter to the Prime Minister regarding the potential changes to abortion law.

The women say there needs to be better support and information given to women who are making the decision.

Barbara Hill knows what it’s like to go through the process of abortion.

“It was expedient at the time – it solved the initial problem I had, but I didn’t realise until years later that I’d actually been grieving.”

That’s why she and seven other women who have also had abortions say they’ve taken out a full-page advertisement in the Sunday newspapers to publish an open letter to Jacinda Ardern.

The letter says: “We did what we thought was best at the time, encouraged, or in some cases pressured, by those around us. But we have suffered.”

It comes as the Government looks at abortion reform, including removing abortion from the Crimes Act and making it a health issue.

“We are looking at two facets of it, the medical side and the criminalisation, but we are not looking at the consequences,” Ms Hill says.

She’s calling for greater support and information to be given to women who are considering abortion, motivated by her own experience.

“Once I stepped on the medical conveyor belt, there was no counselling or any information around potential fallout,” Ms Hill said.

“All the other women I’ve spoken to, not one of them has had really in-depth counselling about the possible outcome of this.”

The open letter – authorised by Christian lobby group Family First – also asks Ms Ardern to err on the side of caution when making changes to the law.

The Prime Minister hadn’t yet read the letter when Newshub spoke to her, but said all views would be considered.

“As parliamentarians we will debate this, but there will be time for the public to have their say.”

She agrees with the letter writers that support for women considering abortion should be paramount.

“I imagine that will be a critical part of the discussion – that is the kind of support that I think all New Zealanders think should be in place.”

Abortion group says law is ‘changing too fast’
Radio NZ News 5 November 2018
A group of women who have had abortions have spoken out to caution the prime minister on law reform. It follows a report back by the Law Commission that recommended ways to decriminalise abortion. An open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been published as a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Star Times, Herald on Sunday and will be published in the Dominion Post on Monday. The open letter includes the names of the eight women and the number of children they have, including those they have aborted. It is thought to be the first time in New Zealand history that a group of women who have had abortions have spoken publicly about their experience, a statement by the group said.

Spokesperson Barbara Hill said that it was time for an honest conversation about the impact abortion had. “We began to feel that the law was changing too fast without any investigation of the fallout and consequences of abortion.” Ms Hill could not say how much it cost to take out the three full-page advertisements. She said the advertisements were funded by the eight women and a number of organisations, including Family First.

“What we would like to do is just draw it to the attention of both Jacinda Ardern and our MPs as well as the public that it needs to have more investigation. And people need to be aware – and one of the reasons people aren’t aware is because it’s people like me who remain silent. None of us have really had the courage until we all got together to actually stand up and say, ‘Well we need to remind people that there’s more to it than just a hospital procedure.’ ”

Ms Hill has worked with many women post-abortion as a mental health educator and found that many struggled with the emotional fallout.

“None of them have reported having counselling, most of the doctors seemed to be there for the medical side of things but not for the emotional side of things. I haven’t had any evidence to the contrary that women are being well-prepared for abortion – it’s been reported that mostly it’s treated as a procedure and it’s just some cells to get rid of.”

Ms Hill said she experienced grief and a range of emotional problems that she was not prepared for following her abortion.

“Initially, I had huge relief after I had an abortion. I thought it had solved my problem – I didn’t wish to be pregnant, it wasn’t a good time in my life, and I thought, in effect, I could get away with it. But I find, particularly with my next children, it was quite a problem for me to bond with them. I was quite an angry mother and I really had to weigh up what had caused this.”

However, reproductive rights campaigner Dame Margaret Sparrow said support and counselling was already available for women, and that she did not believe more support was needed. “I mean it’s sad that these women had an experience where they didn’t have counselling, but my experience is that in most situations, good counselling is available.”

Barbara Hill talks to Newstalk ZB Wellington’s Heather du Plessis-Allan
Tuesday 6 November


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