A Crisis Pregnancy Service which Nelson GPs have set up as an alternative to abortion on request is now leading to many more pregnancies that progress to full term.
Dr Joseph Hassan told a recent conference in Nelson that when he first started as a GP there, he saw no option but to refer women for abortion on request. As a result he and his wife Cushla set up the Crisis Pregnancy Service to explore alternatives for women who need time and the support of trained care coordinators.
Now 74 percent of the women who visit their centre continue with their pregnancy—‘a much higher percentage than in the average general practice’.
Joseph Hassan told the Labour weekend All for Life conference that he is now offering women natural fertility management instead of artificial contraception. He is also taking referrals from other GPs in the town.
The conference drew many doctors, nurses, counsellors, politicians and Christians of different denominations to Nelson to share their work experiences and discuss how best to promote a culture of life in New Zealand.
Scientist Dr Peter Scanlon talked of his particular concern about evidence that oestrogen, the active ingredient in most contraceptives, was damaging to the developing teenage brain’s ability to cope with stress in responsible ways.
He equated this with the known effects of long-term contraceptive medication which led to increased susceptibility to breast and cervical cancer and strokes. This research, he said, was carried out on more mature women, many of whom had already given birth. ‘The real effect on women who may have taken the pill continuously since their early teens is not known,’ he said.
As knowledge of the process of gene imprinting increases, Dr Scanlon speculated about the effects of hormones in contraceptive medication taken over a long period being passed on to generations of offspring.
Other speakers at the conference included a husband and wife team promoting and supporting open adoption throughout New Zealand, an ex-teenage mother, now a grandmother and accountant, counselling women through the healing of post-abortion traumas. There was news of a new mobile ultrasound pregnancy service in Christchurch, and a Purely Girls camp celebrating the dignity of womanhood.
Keynote speaker at the conference, Sr Miriam Duggan, spoke of her experience in Uganda, and received three standing ovations for her work on HIV infection which is endemic throughout many parts of Africa.
Sr Miriam is a surgeon and gynaecologist and Mother Superior to the Franciscan Sisters of Africa. Believing that individuals and communities have the inherent capacity to change attitudes and behaviours, she set up workshops and courses for young people and couples to persuade them against resorting to the use of condoms in the prevention of HIV.
Uganda has become the only African nation to reverse the trend of HIV infection from 24 percent of the population in 1987 to just six percent in 2005.
She attributes her success to her faith in God which has been tested in situations where she has fended off gunmen fighting in her hospital which praying that the aggressors would not find the patients her nuns had hidden in cupboards.
She also worked, cajoled and debated with politicians in United Nations forums to uphold the dignity of women to give life to the unborn in their families.
Her compassion was evident to conference attendees when she told of a consultant who taunted her that her medical career would be over because she would not perform abortions. Later when she visited him, she found a broken man who said he wished he had been more like her and able to stand up for what is right.
Sr Miriam’s sister, Sheila Phillips lives in Nelson.
Images: Top Cushla and Joseph Hassan
Centre: Some of the participants at the All For Life conference in Nelson at Labour Weekend
Above: Sr Miriam Duggan of Uganda