If you are pregnant then you have basic choices:
-Continue the pregnancy and keep the baby
-Continue the pregnancy and place the baby for adoption, or guardianship
-End the pregnancy now by having an abortion
"Pregnant and worried? We can help"
Those are the words of a regular advertisement placed in newspapers around New Zealand by Pregnancy Counseling Services (PCS).
They hope to reach women and girls who are considering an abortion, but desperately hoping that there might be some other way. They want someone kindly to take them by the hand.
Many women are under pressure from boyfriends, husbands, family and friends to have an abortion. They bow to that pressure for a variety of reasons.
There is another scenario in the surgery when the newly pregnant woman sees her GP. She is deeply upset and frightened. Some doctors admit that in a busy practice with a waiting room full of people, it is difficult to find the time to discuss the situation and examine alternatives. It is often easier to simply write out the referral for an abortion.
However there are doctors with a gifted "bedside manner", who reassure and encourage the woman to continue with the pregnancy.
What are the alternatives then?
They are either adoption, guardianship or solo motherhood. It's generally recognized that the
former social experiment of "closed adoption", was frequently both tragic
and traumatic. The woman or girl carried her son or daughter to birth and then
mother and child were immediately separated, usually never to see each other
Fortunately, there has been a remarkable turnaround with the emergence of Open
Adoption which was pioneered by former adoptees such as Keith Griffin. Around
95% of current adoptions in New Zealand are open.
In Open Adoption, the birth mother can meet and choose the prospective parents.
She is then able to keep in contact as her child grows up.
An average of 60 babies are available each year for adoption, when there are
thousands of infertile couples seeking a child.
Adoption brings the inevitable pain of separation and loss associated with
giving up the baby. However, there is the satisfaction of seeing the joy the
sacrifice brings to a childless couple, and being able to stay in contact.
Guardianship is a legal arrangement between the birth parents (the natural
guardians) and the caregivers. The birth parent(s) and the caregivers stay in
contact with each other. Once an agreement is made about who is going to have
custody and responsibility for raising your child, the arrangement can only be
changed by returning to the court.
Guardianship is usually done within families. A similar type of care
arrangement, called whangai, is sometimes made informally within Maori families.
You can find out more from your local Community Law Centre.
The introduction of the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) and social policy
encouraging a mother to keep her child, has led to a sea change from the 1950s
and 1960s, where adoption was the norm.
Unmarried motherhood is now generally accepted and the burden can be greatly
eased by supportive parents.
Women who have elected to keep their child, admit that the early years and
sacrifices are very difficult. The compensation is the mutual love between
mother and child.
Abortion is often seen as a quick and easy solution to the problem of an unwanted or crisis pregnancy. The Ministry of Health booklet "Considering an Abortion? What Are Your Options?" stresses that it is important not to be pressured into making a rushed decision. Many women feel pressured by their circumstances and do make a rushed decision, only to regret it later.
Beware of counsellors who try to pressure women into making a quick decision. A few days of consideration will not limit the choices. Many clinics are reluctant to let the patient see the ultrasound, as it may cause the woman to change her mind. This would usually only happen if a maternal bond has already been formed - however reluctantly.
For quite a number of women seeing the ultrasound, of their baby's heart beating or even movements, is what helps her to make a decision she feels is the right one. You can listen to the heartbeat by clicking here (Requires Windows Media Player)
Ask what the possible complications are, and what you should do if you do have any complications from the abortion. Find out if you should contact the clinic if you have problems, or go to the hospital or to your regular doctor.
Younger girls who are having an abortion because they don't want their parents to know, should realise that if they fall in the small percentage of women who experience a major complication, it is likely that their parents will find out anyway and will be distressed because their daughter did not trust them enough to confide.
Your parents care about your health and, though they may be angry or upset, they are responsible for looking out for your best interests. If you fear violence or other abuse from your parents, your counsellor should be helping you find a safe home. A quick and secret abortion will do nothing to change your abusive situation.
One such safe place to be found is Bethany Centre in Auckland. Run by the Salvation Army, Bethany Centre offers a comfortable home-from-home environment with care, support and mothercraft assistance both before and after the baby is born.
There is no pressure at Bethany for a young mother to have her baby adopted, and sometimes it is even discouraged when they feel the girl is not totally sure of her decision.
Links to other pages on our site:
Considering An Abortion? What Are Your Options?
Tips for Making a Decision
Bethany Centre Information
What Goes On At Bethany
Adoption and the Bethany Centre in Auckland