A devastated mother has revealed how she aborted a baby because new universal credit rules are forcing women to choose between their unborn child and their existing ones.
Although Sally, not her real name, desperately wanted to continue her pregnancy as she would have a daughter to join her two sons, she had it terminated at four months.
This was because Sally and her partner discovered almost halfway through the pregnancy the government no longer pays out child tax credit, and the child element of universal credit, for more than two children.
The rule, which applies to babies born after April 6, 2017, has been widely criticised by women’s rights organisations and child poverty campaigners.
They claim there is a ‘worrying trend’ of women terminating pregnancies as they feel they are unable to provide for another child without help.
Sally, who already has two boys aged four and five, is one of these women currently receiving universal credit after being found not fit for work following 12 years in employment.
She also receives support allowance suffering from PTSD.
Speaking to The Mirror, Sally explained the decision she had to take:
I don’t live with my partner as we can’t afford to. [The pregnancy] wasn’t planned as such but it wasn’t avoided.
We were happy to have another child if it happened and we had discussed after the last one was born that we would be very happy to have another child.
I was four months along and planning what other things we would need to buy for this baby, and then my friend said any child born after 2017 you will not get any extra money for.
I said that cannot possibly be true. We are barely surviving now.
She added her partner, who is currently looking for work but struggling, decided to study to become a personal trainer.
Choosing to try and make it work, Sally and her partner started coming up with a plan but were still concerned they wouldn’t be able to provide for three children.
She then booked herself in for a termination saying:
I knew we couldn’t do it to the children already born and we couldn’t do it to the unborn child.
We thought we could make it work somehow but, honestly, even if we both got a job and 85 per cent of our childcare paid for we still could not afford childcare let alone food.
I was crying when wheeled me in. They kept asking ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ and I couldn’t even answer, I just had to nod my head.
I think it’s something I will never forgive myself for. I know I should have prevented it from happening in the first place. My partner was devastated but he tried not to show any emotion because I was so upset.
The experience has left Sally questioning why the system is the way it is asking whether politicians have any regard for her children.
I feel guilty, ashamed, angry. The Government does not value my right to a family at all or my family, I’m being penalised for being born poor.
I have two sons but I’ve been denied the chance to have a daughter unless we live in complete and utter poverty.
I’m disgusted by the Government; I think a two-child limit is sick and disgusting.
A government spokesman told The Mirror it is their belief ‘this policy ensures fairness between claimants and those who support themselves solely through work’.
Sally though has the support of many campaigners who believe the policy is discriminatory.
Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at abortion provider the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said:
Financial pressures, job or housing insecurity are often among key reasons for women deciding to end an unwanted pregnancy.
But the third child benefit cap is more than that because it penalises those already in the most challenging financial circumstances – and as anti-poverty campaigners have noted, it breaks what has been a fundamental link between need and the provision of support, and also discriminates against children simply because of the order they were born in.
Murphy added it is a fact contraception frequently fails although the policy seems to imply women can always control their fertility.
If you’ve been affected by the issues raised then you can contact Turn2us for benefits advice and support, or BPAS for pregnancy advice and support, including help to end a pregnancy if that’s what you decide.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.