In November this year Open Doors will turn 36. What has changed over this time and what has stayed the same about what we do?
The biggest change we have seen has been the shrinking window of opportunity to reach out to a woman who is unexpectedly pregnant and thinking about abortion. No longer does she come to us for a free pregnancy test and counselling, as was the norm up until the early 2000s. Now she does her own test at home and then, with a couple of clicks on her phone, she is able to book in for an abortion, even obtain a same day appointment.
As with so much of life, the advent of the smart phone in 2007 has changed the landscape for pregnancy counselling centres everywhere, not just for Open Doors. This generation wants solutions now. The time for reflection, for the weighing up of feelings, pros and cons and possible supports is fast vanishing from the equation. Once the appointment at the clinic is made, thinking tends to shut down and the outcome is a ‘fait accompli’, even if she actually feels ambivalent and wishes in her heart there was another way.
This is why we have to devote serious dollars to internet advertising so that when a woman searches for ‘abortion’, our counselling ad appears at or near the top of the search list whenever possible. This is our best chance of capturing that brief ‘window’ and placing our counselling and support services in front of her while she still is in ‘thinking’ mode.
Thankfully, we still do see clients who are thinking through their decision – Eileen has a story about a young couple in this situation – but the greater number of our clients now are those dealing with the aftermath of abortion or whose relationships are impacted. They have finally reached that point of reflection about what they have lost and, tragically, the knowledge can be very difficult to live with. Our post abortion counselling, support group and Rachel’s Vineyard retreat program are essential services for these clients.
Eileen shares her client story with us now –
NEWS FROM THE COUNSELLING WING (all identifying details have been changed)
Celia and Josh discovered they were expecting a baby when Celia presented for an ultrasound to check out symptoms she was experiencing for another condition. A pregnancy was the furthest thing from her mind as she actually feared her condition may prevent her from achieving a pregnancy in the future.
Both Celia and Josh were in shock at the news but still had the forethought (unlike many others), to realise that they needed help in making a decision regarding this pregnancy and they contacted Open Doors for a counselling appointment.
Celia and Josh were both in their mid-twenties and had been going together for three years. They were both in well paid secure employment and between them had managed to save enough money for a loan for a house. Their plan was to buy a house within the next few months, move in and embark on a life together. They had told their respective parents about the pregnancy and both were pleased and supportive. On the surface, they appeared to have all the ingredients required to welcome a baby into their lives.
However, there was one obstacle in bringing this to fruition: Celia disclosed that she did not want to have a baby right now. She told the counsellor that although she felt guilty about this, it just didn’t seem the right time for them. None of their friends or family members had babies. She felt that a baby would tie them down at a time in their life when they enjoyed socialising with friends, going out to parties and clubs, enjoying a drink. She said that with a baby to tie them down she was afraid that they would lose all their friends.
Celia’s comments raised a red flag for the counsellor and she asked Josh how he felt about their situation. Josh said that he wanted to do what was best for Celia and that he thought it might be better to wait a few years until they were more established. The counsellor acknowledged Celia and Josh’s concerns, telling them that the decision was a very difficult one and either way it would be life changing for them.
The counsellor informed Celia and Josh that from what they had told her, they were at extremely high risk of a negative outcome for them and their relationship if they chose to end the pregnancy. She then went on to explain that because they were in a loving, long-term relationship with the wish to have a family in the future, that an abortion could erode the very foundations of that future they have so far worked to build.
She explained to them about grief after a loss; that they may grieve regardless of whether they wanted the baby or not. She explained how men and women often grieve differently and how this can destroy a relationship, if not immediately, then over time. She also informed them that this would be their first baby, no matter how many others they went on to have and that dates such as the date of the abortion and the due date may be annual reminders.
During the session the counsellor noted that Celia was sitting with her hands cradling her belly so she gently inquired if she had made any changes since she knew she was pregnant. Celia said that she had given up drinking alcohol and had stopped eating soft cheese and processed meats. She said that she has also started taking vitamins. The counsellor pointed out that, without realising it, Celia was already bonding with her baby through taking these protective measures.
Towards the end of the session Celia remarked that there was certainly much more to think about and process before they made a decision. Josh said that before coming to Open Doors they thought they had pretty much thought it all through but he now realised there were so many more issues and possible serious outcomes to making this decision.
They were both grateful that they had taken the opportunity to become fully informed.
The counsellor encouraged them to take some time to process all this new information before making a final decision and welcomed them to come in for another session if they needed.
We haven’t heard from Celia and Josh which is usually the case after a pregnancy counselling session. After all, it is not our decision to make. Our hope and prayer for them is that we have given them enough information and insight into their situation to make the right decision for themselves, their relationship and their baby. EILEEN
We are always so thankful when we are able to support a woman or a couple who are grappling with a pregnancy decision. It’s work we have perfected over 36 years. And this brings me to what hasn’t changed since Open Doors began – the expertise, passion and dedication for the work evident in our counsellors, and the loyalty and generosity of you, our donors. Your support enables us to reach out into the window of opportunity that is there and to shine a light into dark, troubled or anxious places.
Our clients, no matter why they come to us, are blessed to have your support and concern. Thank you for your gift as we launch into our 36th year.
with our prayers and warm regards,