What’s going on when a woman fears she will be told off by a counsellor for not having an abortion? This particular client story which Eileen will share with you shortly raised some interesting discussion around the lunch table here at Open Doors.
Sometimes the world can be a topsy-turvy place. Differing ideologies battle it out on political and community levels, telling us what is right and what is wrong while simultaneously placing the highest value on individual choice. The only problem is that when individual choice goes against what prevailing ideologies say is ‘right’, the individual is somehow ‘wrong’!
So it is with abortion. In many ways we see how women who don’t really want an abortion are wrong-footed and made to feel they are letting others down or making life difficult for others if they express a wish to not go ahead. It might be the partner, husband or parent trying to make her do the ‘right’ thing. Sometimes it is the medical staff involved.
One post abortion client told how, in the lead up to the procedure, she cried and expressed doubts about going through with it. The nurse scolded her and told her she should just ‘get on with it’ and do it for the sake of her other children. Another client described how she had made an appointment for an abortion, then changed her mind and rang the clinic to cancel. The person she spoke to told her the appointment would not be cancelled, it would be rescheduled for the following week. It seems the clinic wouldn’t accept that her doubts might be valid and worth exploring. They had a different idea of what her ‘right’ decision should be and wanted to ensure she made it.
Why would a woman be scolded and censured for not wanting to have an abortion in an age where the individual’s freedom to choose is such a highly prized value? The answer is complicated but it lies partly in the need for abortion providers to justify what they do, and partly in the need for those pushing for an abortion to happen to believe that nothing of value will be lost. As we know, denial can be a powerful defense mechanism and it takes strength and courage to look deeper.
Eileen shares her client story with us now – (all identifying details have been changed)
The counsellor answered the phone: “Hello, Open Doors Counselling, how I can help?”
There was no reply, which is not an unusual occurrence as it can take some courage for a client to make that first call for help.
The counsellor gently said, “It’s okay, just take your time, I’m here to listen when you are ready.”
A faint voice eventually replied, “My name is Eleanor……. can I tell you something? Will….will you be angry with me?”
Anticipating that the caller was going to disclose an abortion, the counsellor gently replied, “You can tell me anything, Eleanor. I won’t be angry; I am not here to make judgements, just to help.”
Eleanor asked, “Do you know about…a..abortion?”
“Yes, I know a lot about abortion, Eleanor,” replied the counsellor.
Apprehensively Eleanor said, “I was supposed to have one this morning but I couldn’t go through with it. My boyfriend said it wasn’t the right time for us to have a baby but I couldn’t do it.”
“If you were unsure or had doubts or felt pressured then you did the right thing not to go through with it,” the counsellor reassured her. “If you want to have your baby there is financial and material help that you can access and Open Doors can support you emotionally through your pregnancy.”
Eleanor told the counsellor where she lived and because she lived interstate, the counsellor gave her the name and number of an organisation near her that does similar work to us. The call ended abruptly when Eleanor said she was feeling ill with morning sickness and had to go.
A few hours later Eleanor rang back, initially she was again reluctant to talk however after a while she began to talk openly about her life and her situation. She told the counsellor that she had just finished her lunch, a healthy stir fry of wholesome veggies, finished with fresh fruit, (she hoped it would stay down). She was 14 weeks pregnant and she expressed how eating healthy was so important for the baby. She said that she had her own place and that her boyfriend stayed some nights during the week. She said he didn’t contribute to the rent but he filled her fridge with food each week.
The counsellor asked Eleanor how her boyfriend would feel about her decision not to have the abortion. Eleanor said quite definitely that he would just have to accept it. While talking to the counsellor, Eleanor was going about housekeeping tasks, checking her work uniform to see if it was dry for work that evening. She said she worked in hospitality in the evenings. Hearing this, the counsellor asked her if she had intended to work that evening if she had had the abortion. She said that she had intended to but didn’t know if it would have been possible.
Eleanor went on to disclose that she was estranged from her family and had had to manage on her own from a young age. The conversation began to wind down when Eleanor said she had just arrived at school to pick up her boyfriend’s daughter. She said that she did this two weeks out of every month when her boyfriend had access. She looked after her until her boyfriend got home and then she left for work. The counsellor could tell by the banter she could hear between Eleanor and the girl that they had a good relationship.
Before the end of the call the counsellor asked again how her boyfriend would take the news about her intention to continue the pregnancy. Eleanor seemed relaxed now and said it would be okay, that he would understand. She also assured the counsellor she would make contact with her or someone from the organisation in her town if she needed the support.
All told, the counsellor spent three hours with Eleanor that day. When Eleanor finally mustered the courage to disclose that she didn’t have an abortion and was validated and supported in making her own decision, a relationship of trust and support developed. During that long conversation it became quite evident that not only did Eleanor want to continue her pregnancy but that she possessed the courage, strength and skills to draw upon to make it a reality.
It seemed the one thing she did need was someone to confirm that she had the right to follow her own values and desires to go ahead with the pregnancy. Our counsellor gave her that confirmation and more. She gave her time, showed that she was interested in her, her life and her wellbeing and offered her ongoing support if she needed it. This may have been something Eleanor had experienced very little of in her life thus far. I couldn’t think of a more fulfilling way for an Open Doors’ counsellor to spend three hours! EILEEN
The world’s values seem very muddled when you hear of a woman fearing censure for not having an abortion. But how wonderful that she found the strength to follow what she knew in her heart to be right. And how grateful we are to have been able to add to her strengths on the day she called Open Doors.
In a topsy-turvy world we rely ever more on the unchanging nature of God, the one who made us, loves us and redeems us, to guide us into lifegiving paths. Thank you for journeying with Open Doors for another year. Your financial and prayerful support means everything to our clients as they reach out for help and we reach out to help them. Just last week I was humbled to learn that a former client who passed away recently has left us a generous bequest in gratitude for the help she received from Open Doors in a time of crisis. Her gratitude rightly belongs to you as well.
We pray that you will discover anew the faithfulness of God this Christmas and wish you every blessing in 2020.
with our prayers and warm regards,
Alison, on behalf of all the team at Open Doors