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Standing in solidarity with the women left to ‘choice’

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Jennifer Gurry (right), founder of Diamond Pregnancy Support. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Often what makes a pregnancy a ‘crisis pregnancy’ is the lack of support a woman receives from those around her. Feeling alone, facing financial difficulties, often under pressure to abort, and receiving no encouragement or practical help, many women decide abortion is their only option.

This was brought to light recently in the media with allegations surfacing that two NRL footballers had pressured their ex-girlfriends to abort their unborn children, and even paid them under contract to do so. The women involved in both cases claimed they wanted to keep their babies but they were under immense pressure to abort. Both women expressed grief over their abortions.

It is vital that services are available for women who find themselves in such situations so that they know there are real alternatives to abortion, and feel supported in having their baby.

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There are several support services available to women experiencing a crisis pregnancy around Sydney. Places that provide real, practical and non-judgemental support, so that women don’t feel that ending the life of their unborn child is their only option.

CatholicCare Pregnancy Counselling and Support in Bankstown offers both face-to-face and phone counselling for women dealing with pregnancy-related issues including women considering abortion, women who have had an abortion and need support, women experiencing stress during pregnancy and mothers seeking accommodation.

They link women in need to other important support services and provide follow-up phone calls until the baby is three months old, and even longer if necessary.

Hua He, a helper to women experiencing crisis pregnancy. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Hua He who is a counsellor with CatholicCare Pregnancy Counselling and Support said they encounter women of all age groups seeking their assistance including many migrants and refugees waiting for bridging visas. Of the vital services they provide she said, “The support can reduce the stress and help prevent post-natal depression which gets in the way of a secure attachment between mother and baby.”

Jennifer Gurry, Executive Director of Diamond Pregnancy Support in Bella Vista, believes the services her organisation provides to women are incredibly valuable.

“Without services like this, women and girls would be forced to face unplanned pregnancies solo and they would be pushed into choices that otherwise they wouldn’t make,” she said.

Diamond Pregnancy Support provides support for women up to 12 months after the birth of their child including “Mum-to-Mum” and mentoring programs and assistance with material goods.

Jennifer founded Diamond Pregnancy Support for very personal reasons. She was herself conceived out of wedlock and her mother was under pressure to have an abortion. However, Jennifer says, her “wonderful Catholic dad” assured her mother that an abortion wouldn’t be necessary.

When she was a university student Jennifer was astounded to discover there were 80,000 abortions a year in Australia. She says today the number is likely to be even higher.

She said women facing crisis pregnancies are under many pressures including domestic violence situations. They have seen a “growing shift” she said, with many women “often heavily coerced into having abortions and lacking support and networks.”

According to Jennifer they are also seeing increasing numbers of young girls seeking support who are suffering from anxiety and depression.

At Pregnancy Help Sydney, based in Liverpool, they have a 24 hour phone counselling service with 32 counsellors all over NSW, ready to help any time of day or night.

They also offer material and financial assistance. Carmel Jeffreys, Coordinator at Pregnancy Help Sydney, says they get a lot of calls for financial assistance. “These services are important for women, especially if the husband has left or is unemployed,” she said.

In regards to women who are considering abortion, Carmel says they will explain to the women what actually happens during an abortion procedure. They also provide post-abortion counselling. “Post-abortion women often experience depression, especially at an important anniversary, or Mother’s Day, often years after the abortion.

“They feel sad and don’t know why and they sometimes have a reaction when they see another baby in the family.”

Sara’s Place in Surry Hills offers basic support including counselling, material and financial aid for women facing pregnancy alone; also counselling for post-abortive women. They seek to empower women who are lacking in resources due to their particular circumstances.

Linda Smyth who runs Sara’s Place says most of the time it is the father of the child who has either walked away or is pressuring the woman to abort. Sometimes however, they are approached by men who feel helpless as their wives or girlfriends are planning to abort their child.

Sara’s Place director Linda Smyth (right) speaks with women in her Surry Hills offices. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

They often encounter women seeking support up to 20 years after they’ve had an abortion. “They are tired of hurting,” Linda said. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

“With post-abortion grief, often people don’t associate what they are feeling with the abortion. Often years later they realise when their life spirals out of control,” Linda said.

At Sara’s Place, she said, the support they offer women is “unconditional and unlimited”.

Greg Donnelly, Member of the Legislative Council in the NSW Parliament, believes strongly in the importance of such crisis pregnancy support services for women. He told The Catholic Weekly, “As the recent scandals in the National Rugby League have shown the incidence of women being pressured and abandoned into abortion is all too common in NSW.”

“We know from research, both here in Australia and overseas, that many women who have an abortion have been exposed to domestic violence.”

Stressing the need for the community to support women in these situations, he said, “Women who have an unplanned pregnancy should not be left feeling guilty and abandoned. We have to stand with them and offer both our care and support.”

“As a society that prides itself as one that steps up and helps those most in need, we can and must do a great deal more for women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.”

The services provided by places like CatholicCare Pregnancy Counselling and Support, Diamond Pregnancy Support, Sara’s Place and Pregnancy Help Sydney, offer women a desperately needed helping hand so they don’t have to face a pregnancy alone, or feel abortion is the only choice. For those women who have been through an abortion, these services also offer them the safe, caring and non-judgemental support they need to find healing.

Contact information:

CatholicCare Pregnancy Counselling and Support
02) 8709 9333 or freecall
1800 063 510
Level 3, 2 Meredith Street, Bankstown
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Diamond Pregnancy Support
02) 8003 4990
Suite 4.02/29-31 Lexington Drive, Bella Vista
Unit 13, 24 Watt Street, Gosford
[email protected]
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Sara’s Place
1300 851 592
Unit 2, 135 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
[email protected]
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Pregnancy Help Sydney
1300 792 798
251 Bigge Street, Liverpool
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Pregnancy Help Australia
1300 792 798
1300 655 156
(SA, WA, TAS or NT)

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