As much as many of us may hope otherwise, there’s no denying the fact there will always be pro-lifers out there.
Whether it’s a result of personal belief or religion, some people will fight against abortion and insist women keep their children no matter the cost.
Certain places have gone to the extent of putting ridiculous bans on abortion to enforce their beliefs, for example with Alabama making it a crime to perform the procedure at any stage of pregnancy and Georgia, along with a number of other American states, passing the ‘heartbeat bill’ and banning abortions after a foetal heartbeat is detected.
Of course, if a woman in one of these places really doesn’t want to have a child, the ban won’t stop her getting an abortion. It will simply force her to go to more extreme, and possibly less safe, measures in order to have the procedure – a result which isn’t pro-life, even though it’s come about because of pro-lifers.
Personally I believe taking away a woman’s choice to have an abortion is a complete violation of human rights but while I disagree with the arguments made by pro-lifers I know they will always be around to fight their beliefs.
Pro-lifers often condemn women who get abortions; it’s not uncommon to see a crowd of protesters gathered outside an abortion clinic, screaming at everyone who walks inside.
Shouting about how abortion is ‘wrong’ might might successfully guilt-trip, shame or embarrass a woman out of getting an abortion but it’s very unlikely it would make the person in question change their mind and suddenly feel confident and happy about keeping their child.
If pro-lifers are going to try and make women think twice about abortion they should offer actual help to tackle the reasons a woman may want the procedure, rather than just judging them without even knowing the thought process behind their decision – just as the organisation Schreeuw om Leven (Cry for Life) works to do.
In the Netherlands abortion is legal, so in response to the law there are, like most other places, pro-life organisations hoping to stop women getting abortions. However, rather than screaming at people outside clinics, Cry for Life offers solutions to problems which may be contributing to a woman’s decision to get an abortion.
The pro-life organisation is based in Hilversum in the Netherlands but offers its services at a number of places around the country. It was founded in 1984 and added a counselling department called Er is Hulp (There is Help) in 2000.
Kees van Helden, director of Cry for Life, told UNILAD the organisation works to ‘help women before abortion in order for them to keep their child’ but he pointed out they also offer assistance after abortions, to help women heal following the procedure.
Cry for Life offers help in a number of different ways with the goal of the solving any problems which may lead a woman to think she has no choice but to have an abortion.
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Door de problemen bij de #abortuscentra proberen we vaker te waken dan we gewend zijn. Afgelopen week hebben daardoor twee vrouwen hun abortus afgezegd! Ze werden beiden op de stoep aangesproken. Het valt ons op dat diverse vrouwen graag willen #praten. Ook deze twee #vrouwen. Een was samen met haar partner en ging wel naar binnen met de informatie die ze mee hadden gekregen. (het boekje van de foto met uitleg over ontwikkeling kind, procedures, gevolgen en hulpaanbod) Toen ze na enige tijd weer naar buiten kwamen mochten we weer met hen spreken en ze gaven aan; "we hebben de afspraak voor een #abortus afgezegd, we doen het niet" Dankbaar voor het werk dat de wakers voor de deur mogen doen. Waker worden? Meld u aan via de website.
For example, money might be an issue. The woman may not be working, or might already have a large family to support, and so she might not be able to afford another child.
If this is the case, Cry for Life and There is Help would offer a sponsor programme in which volunteers step up to be a ‘buddy’ to the woman. For the first year of the baby’s life, buddies can provide everything from beds and nappies to baby food and prams; purchases which are then reimbursed by the foundation.
Though the sponsor plan only runs for a year, Kees explained most women are no longer in need of the money by then.
The director said:
In that first year we have the time to look into additional help for the women. In practice we notice that most women who start using our sponsor plan tell us they don’t need it anymore at some point during the first year, because family and friends have begun to take over these responsibilities.
The sponsor plan helps women to look beyond the possibility of abortion and we feel it is very effective.
Despite our country being relatively wealthy, financial problems are still the number one difficulty women face. They see it as an obstacle between them and their baby. We feel that this can never be a reason to abort a child and so we provide that help.
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Wauw! €10.500,- heeft de #kerkmarkt in #Werkendam opgeleverd! En wat was het een mooie dag volgens de #vrijwilligers die onze informatiekraam bemanden. Hier kan #SchreeuwomLeven bijvoorbeeld een jaar voor twee dagen per week versterking voor de #hulpverlening inzetten! En wat kunnen we het goed gebruiken, want #ErisHulp wordt steeds vaker gevonden. Wat een mooie steun in de rug van het werk dat we mogen doen! #Dankbaarheid
Kees went on to give an example of how the sponsor plan allowed one woman to cancel her abortion after believing she couldn’t afford to keep her child as she and her husband were struggling financially.
However, on her way to the abortion clinic the woman met Cry for Life volunteers. She discussed her financial problems and the workers offered her money; a gesture which resulted in the mother keeping her baby.
Cry for Life also offers help in the way of counsellors. Rather than judging and criticising women entering abortion clinics, the organisation works with volunteers who ‘adhere to strict rules in order to come into contact lovingly and with respect with the visitors of the abortion centers’.
The volunteers do gather at clinics and they do attempt to prevent abortions from taking place but at least they are making an effort to understand the women’s reasoning.
Our counsellors go to several abortion facilities in The Netherlands. They stand outside where they can reach out to the women walking by.
You could call them side walk counsellors. They pray there and try to talk to the women in a final attempt to change their perspective on their upcoming abortion. We do this by trying to see what the problems are behind the abortion wish.
Our people try to let them know: there is help for your situation. Sometimes that reassurance alone can wake up a woman’s actual heart’s desire.
She can then feel the wall standing between her and her wish to be a mom breaking down. In those moments the women go from an unwanted pregnancy to a wanted pregnancy.
Tomorrow marks the start of the 40 days for life protest outside Fallowfield’s abortion clinic. 40 days of hurling abuse at women. We’re going to be there wearing these to let women know they’re supported in their choice to get an abortion. 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/B4yA9cQSFY
— beth redmond (@redbethmond) February 13, 2018
When discussing the reasons women choose to have an abortion, the director described how some women can feel pressure from spouses, family members or even society.
Naturally these kinds of situations can be extremely difficult to navigate and see a way out of and many women may feel that they need to get rid of the baby in order to please the person in question, but having, or not having, a baby is an extremely personal decision and no one should be able to make it for you.
Being pro-choice doesn't just mean I am for abortion. I am also for not choosing abortion.
— The Raging Atheist (@nokasuchi) July 7, 2019
Kees spoke about how counsellors can help women who are feeling pressure, saying:
Many women are being pressured – either severely or subtly – by their family or their partners or even by the culture we live in.
Our volunteers at the abortion mills will listen to the stories of these women concerning spousal abuse or family pressure.
Some women are genuinely afraid their parents will disown them or worse if they find out they are pregnant out of wedlock. Other times the parents know about the pregnancy and are demanding that their daughter gets an abortion.
Our volunteers try to mediate in these situations and if need be our organisation can make sure these women get to a safe house.
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#Familiedagen #Gorinchem. We kijken terug op een geslaagde eerste dag en zien uit naar de komende twee dagen. Vanmorgen met spoed extra informatietasjes klaarmaken, omdat we gisteren meer dan verwachting mochten uitdelen. Mooi om veel te mogen spreken over het #Sponsorplan en de #MarsvoorhetLeven.
Kees said that on average one or two women a week accept help or information from sidewalk counsellors and decide to keep their child. Another one or two a week do the same through in-office counselling after contacting Cry for Life.
He added in 2018 they had 522 help cases in which most women called or emailed the office seeking help. Twenty per cent of the cases were post-abortion but almost 50 per cent of the remaining cases decided to keep their baby after contacting There is Help.
Of course, there are some women who decide they don’t want to go through with their pregnancy simply because they don’t want a baby, and that is, at least in my opinion, a perfectly acceptable choice.
I had an abortion. I do not regret it. I do not feel guilty. #mybodymychoice
— GrandmaBobi (@BobiGrandma) July 8, 2019
Being a pro-life organisation, Cry for Life are ultimately against abortion but at least they tackle the reasons behind the procedure and offer constructive solutions.
They are not condemning of women who decide to go through with an abortion and even offer counselling sessions for anyone struggling after the procedure, with around 20 per cent of their in-office help concerning post-abortion cases.
Kees spoke of how the counsellors help in these cases, explaining:
Our counsellors at the office try to talk to them about how they can seek peace and forgiveness from God. If they are not religious and would like to stay that way, our team still offers them counselling in love, by talking to them and, if need be, seeking external help for them in the form of a psychiatrist or other professional counsellors who can lead them on a path of healing as best they can.
The Cry for Life director went on to implore anyone considering abortion to look at their options, explaining help can be found for those who need it.
It’s entirely up to the woman whether to keep their child or not but as Kees has made clear there are some cases where people feel they have no other option but to have an abortion, even if they’d rather keep the baby.
Women should have just as much freedom to keep their child as they should not to keep it and if pro-lifers want to encourage women to give birth they should take steps to make help more accessible, as Cry for Life and There is Help does. It’s clear some people would benefit from this.
Condemning women doesn’t get anyone anywhere but offering help could allow some women to go through with pregnancies which they otherwise thought impossible.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.