Thursday 9th March
Earlier this week the amendments to the public order bill that sought to allow pro-life vigils and prayers outside abortion clinics were rejected. Buffer zones will now mean that pro-life activities cannot take place in the vicinity of abortion clinics. Many pro-life campaigners are feeling despair at this news. But fear not, you are not defeated, there are lots of other, and I dare say, better, ways you can be pro-life. Here’s ten:
1. Campaign for increased child benefit
In 2015 the Government announced a two child limit on child benefit. Between 2016-2019 there was a sharp rise in the number of abortions requested by women who had two or more children. During the pandemic the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said over half of the women it surveyed who were aware of the two-child limit and likely to be affected by it, said the policy was “important in their decision-making around whether or not to continue the pregnancy.”
2. Work to alleviate poverty: (Volunteer at Christians Against Poverty, or Citizen’s Advice, or a foodbank. Donate to charities that seek to alleviate poverty.)
There is a wealth of research, both in the UK and worldwide, that shows that the main reason women choose abortion is poverty. This study by the University of York for example shows that as the rate of deprivation in an area increases, the abortion rate in that area also rises. Over recent years, this relationship seems to have become stronger, with the increase in the rate of abortion rising more sharply with deprivation in recent data
A comparative study in Scotland also found that women who had more than one termination within a two year period were often experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage and pointed to an association with intimate partner violence as well (Purcell et al 2017).
3. Provide affordable, or even better, free childcare
Six in ten women who have had an abortion said the cost of childcare put them off pregnancy. UK families pay the highest childcare costs in the world. Offering to regularly help out a mother with childcare so she can work could make a huge difference, be it as in individual babysitter or as a church childcare provider with subsidised fees.
4. Campaign for Equal Pay and/or more paternity pay.
The gender pay gap continues to rise, but in reality this is a procreation gap with the pay differential between mothers and childless women being more than that between men and women without children. Research by the International Labour Office found that in the UK, the pay gap between mothers with two children and non-mothers is 25% across their lifetime, and the IFS found that by the time a woman’s first child is 12 years old, her hourly pay rate is 33 per cent behind a man’s. Having children impoverishes women and ruins careers. It shouldn’t. It doesn’t do that to men.
5. Campaign for better working conditions and rights for women
54,000 women a year lose their job due to maternity discrimination.
6. Work to end Domestic Abuse: (Get Restored training for your church, run an Always Hopeful programme in your church, donate to domestic abuse charities, challenge everyday sexism.)
We don’t know how many women choose abortion because of domestic abuse, because very few of them are disclosing the abuse during their abortion. However, we know that 25% of the female population experiences abuse, that 40% of women who experienced abuse reported that their pregnancy was unintended and that 53% of women aged 16-29 attending family planning clinics reported physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner.
7. Volunteer in a women’s refuge:
15% of women report being coerced to have an abortion. This can be from abusive partners or from disappointed parents. Refuges offer protection to women who may be experiencing abortion coercion. They also offer protection to women whose partners may be raping them and coercing them into unwanted pregnancies.
8. Support Rape Crisis or other charities working to keep women safe from sexual assault
Despite what the statistics tell us about people who have abortions because they have been raped being a relatively small number we know that 5 million women in England and Wales have been raped or sexually assaulted since the age of 16, so that figure is likely to be much higher, In addition two thirds of adolescents who became pregnant had been sexually or physically assaulted. As with domestic abuse, women simply don’t disclose this reason.
9. Get involved with Sex and Relationships Education in schools and Youth clubs and teach boys about consent.
It’s not just the violent acts of forced penetration that cause women to lose their agency when it comes to sex and reproduction. Coercion is far more common and just as devastating. 50% of women of childbearing age experience reproductive coercion, this can cover a range of behaviours from “stealthing” (removing the condom during sex) to hiding her pill or constantly pressuring her not to use contraception. It also includes coerced abortions and coerced pregnancies. 1 in 5 young women are coerced into pregnancy and ⅓ of people attending family planning clinics say they were pressured to have sex without contraception
10. Be Pro-Choice!
“What? But I’m pro-life!” I hear you cry!
Let me make this clear, being pro-choice is not the same as being pro-abortion, and if we would only stop this divisiveness and demonisation of those who see things differently to us we could achieve so much in terms of making the world a better place for women and children.
Research shows that in countries where the right to abortion is restricted, the abortion rates are actually higher. That’s right, attempting to take away women’s choices, to legally prevent abortion, does not work. In fact, it actually causes abortions to rise. [source]
To make good choices women need to be empowered, we don’t empower women by taking away the option of abortion, we empower them by taking away the need for abortion, and it doesn’t matter what label we apply to ourselves, pro-choice or pro-life, none of us want to see women feeling like they have no other choice but to have an abortion, none of us want women to be having abortions because they can’t afford a child, or they know they’ll lose their hard fought for career if they tell their boss they’re pregnant. None of us want to see women raped, or bullied into pregnancies, or abortions by abusive men. Giving women more choices is the best way to be pro-life, because the vast majority of women, when they have a real, workable and fair choice to choose life will do so, the reason so many women don’t choose life now is because they don’t feel able to, because they don’t have choice.