Finding an alternative to abortion

Cushla Hassan4 October 2011 She is pregnant with her sixth child and deeply distressed. With her husband out of work, the family can barely manage to feed the five little…

Cushla Hassan
4 October 2011

She is pregnant with her sixth child and deeply distressed. With her husband out of work, the family can barely manage to feed the five little ones let alone see to their education.

Her husband has gone into denial and she feels isolated and trapped. She wants an abortion. ‘I have no other choice,’ she sobs. Her desolation and hopelessness fill the room.

This is the kind of situation that my husband, Joseph, came to dread soon after starting work as a general practitioner.

He needed no persuading that human life is precious from the moment of conception. Still, he felt compassion for women in this situation and found it hard to decline requests for an abortion referral.

How can you just say no? If you refuse a person in distress, shouldn’t you offer alternatives?

There seemed to be a large gap in what the health profession offered women in this position. Abortion seemed to be the only medical response on offer.

Some good voluntary services were operating in the community but these seemed separate from the primary care network. Many GPs were not familiar enough with these services and their level of professionalism to refer their patients.

Life Thrust Trust
There needed to be a service offered from within the primary care network to gain GPs’ trust and address a problem which is a common reason for a woman seeking care from her GP.

Nine years ago we became aware of a fund – the Life Thrust Trust – which provides financial help for women in crisis pregnancies. With the support of parishes and other church communities in the Nelson region, Crisis Pregnancy Support came into being. Today, it is staffed by a dedicated team of volunteers including nurses who coordinate services for every woman who comes to us.

Joseph acts as medical advisor and about 30 other volunteers offer friendship and practical help such as housing, food, and childcare. We also link with other agencies that offer support to women in crisis pregnancies.

Our work has taken a different approach from that of many medical professionals. Most GPs tend to process a woman’s abortion referral as quickly as possible to minimise her distress. We advise women to slow down and take a moment to consider other options.

A woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy may feel vulnerable, anxious and desperate to find a solution. Abortion may appear to be the solution that will bring the most relief to the initial shock.

In our experience time and loving support will enable a woman to feel safe and empowered to work through some of the real and perceived barriers to continuing with the pregnancy.

A practical approach is important. Something as simple as her car breaking down may bring other factors to a head. Helping her to access funds to have the car fixed may give her the confidence she needs to address the more serious issues she is facing.

Those suffering emotional trauma from a past abortion may also need help. The primary care team is also able to meet this growing need. We often refer women to counsellors or to specialised help such as that provided by Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats and Post Abortion Trauma Healing Services.

For more information go to or 03 548 1858.