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The silence of the exclusion zones will make women more vulnerable

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Jaya Taki told The Catholic Weekly that in all three of her pregnancies she was pressured to abort her unborn child. She was fired from her job after continuing a pregnancy and giving birth to her daughter who is now seven. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Two years after she had an abortion, Jaya Taki still thinks about what might have been, had she received support to keep her baby. Just talking about it still moves her to tears.

“Look at me, it’s been two years and I’m still sad,” she told The Catholic Weekly.

“When I heard about what sidewalk counsellors do I was actually in tears because I thought, wow, if only there had been someone there to help me, because there is so much responsibility on the woman.

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“I remember thinking at the time that it would have been great to have someone talk to my partner and have him understand how important it is to keep your children. Just to have someone there to validate me in that.”

Ms Taki believes that the recent legislation passed in the NSW Parliament making it illegal for sidewalk counsellors to offer women support outside abortion clinics actually denies women choice.

“Let them pray, let them offer services, because as far as I’m concerned the counsellors inside the clinics aren’t doing their job.”

Jaya Taki talks to Catholic Weekly journalist Catherine Sheehan. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

When she entered the clinic to undergo an abortion two years ago, Ms Taki says she was in a vulnerable and emotional state. She wanted to keep the child but her partner didn’t. Many friends had also advised her to abort. Everything and everyone around her seemed to indicate that abortion was easy, normal and the best option in her circumstances.

Inside the clinic the counsellor made little attempt to determine Ms Taki’s real state of mind or her genuine wishes in regards to the pregnancy.

“You go in, fill out a form, and then you have a counselling session but the counselling session is an absolute joke.

“When I went into the session she said to me, ‘Why do you want an abortion?’ And I said, ‘Well we’ve only been together about four months.’ She said, ‘That’s a good reason to have an abortion.’ Straight away I was just like, ‘OK, this is an ok thing’.

“When you have so many people around you validating abortion, you just think what’s the point of fighting? You start to think, is this a baby? No one even cares, so why am I making such a big deal about it? Maybe everyone else is right.”

Jaya Taki addressing MP’s at NSW Parliament last year. She spoke of her personal experience of being coerced into abortion. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Pro-life sidewalk counsellors who offer women support were criticised for not being qualified counsellors during the recent debate surrounding the Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics Bill. But as someone who has experienced the abortion industry first-hand, Ms Taki says this criticism doesn’t hold water.

She believes the sidewalk counsellors go some way to addressing the dismal lack of support for women experiencing a crisis pregnancy.

“The qualified counsellor inside the abortion clinic failed to see that I was unfit to have an abortion and still allowed it to happen. So these women just need someone there.”

With each of her three pregnancies, Ms Taki says she has been pressured to abort – by partners, friends and employers.

When she chose to have her daughter, who is now seven, she lost her job because she continued the pregnancy. “My boss at the time told me if I didn’t abort I’d be fired. And he was true to that. I did get fired.”

“When you have so many people telling you to just go and get an abortion, you don’t feel supported. But you also feel like, ‘Oh, this [abortion] is nothing then’.”

She also believes that enforcing 150 metre exclusion zones around abortion clinics, as stipulated in the bill passed last week by the NSW Parliament, only shrouds the abortion industry in further secrecy and silence.

A member of the We Support Women group protesting outside Parliament against the recent “Safe Access” Bill which will enforce 150 metre exclusion zones around abortion facilities. The new legislation means sidewalk cousellors will no long be able to offer support to women outside abortion clinics. The bill also outlaws silent prayer outside clinics. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Such secrecy compounds the situation women can find themselves in, of being coerced to abort and not being offered support to continue the pregnancy.

“These exclusion zones perpetuate secrecy – not privacy, secrecy. If you’re so proud of your work [at abortion clinics] put it on your buildings. Say ‘This is an abortion clinic.’ So I don’t think it’s a safety or privacy issue because they’re doing the opposite.”

Because the father of her unborn child was a high-profile NRL footballer, news of Ms Taki’s abortion leaked into the media last year.

As well as receiving many derogatory comments from members of the public, she was also inundated with emails from women who had gone through a similar experience. This made her realise just how common coerced abortion really is.

“My inbox was filled with [emails from] women who said ‘I’ve been through the same thing’. They’re in what they think are loving relationships but the moment they find out they’re pregnant these men leave. One woman told me her partner said if she had the baby he’d kill himself.

“So a lot of women have these stories but are we allowed to speak about them?”

Members of We Support Women outside NSW Parliament protesting against legislation to enforce exclusion zones around abortion clinics. The group believe the exclusion zones will remove much needed support from women experiencing crisis pregnancies. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Ms Taki fears that not allowing sidewalk counsellors to offer women much-needed support outside clinics will further isolate women who are in abusive relationships. She says there is a close link between coerced abortion and domestic violence.

“If we take away sidewalk counsellors, are we taking away the ability to see that some of these women need help beyond the pregnancy? People think domestic violence is purely physical violence but what I experienced was emotional and psychological violence. Domestic violence is not just physical.”

In her life, Ms Taki has experienced miscarriage, abortion and having a child. She says only one of those experiences was liberating and empowering.

“One of those has been the most amazing, life-changing thing. From my own experience, when you just give life a chance, amazing things happen.

“I want to change the narrative around children. When you start to see children as gifts and not burdens then there can be a shift in thinking.”

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