With the UK Government talking about lowering the abortion cut-off time, Zoe Birdsall talks to students about the reality of such a life-changing decision.
A woman in Ireland died recently after being refused an abortion in the pro-life country. The event has fuelled anger over government discussions to limit abortion access. The River talks to Kingston students about having a shorter time to decide yes or no to an abortion.
Kelly, a bubbly third-year Kingston student was 13 weeks gone when she discovered she was pregnant. Having always had irregular periods she did not know she was expecting. She was 18-years-old.
“I didn’t feel I had a choice. Not only would my family have not coped but I was too young. It was a year before I started university. It was just the wrong time,” she says.
Members of Parliament discussions
As Members of Parliament, including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Prime Minister David Cameron, discuss the issue of bringing forward the cut-off abortion deadline, what would happen to women like Kelly?
For some, like student Gemma, 21, the cut to only 20 weeks could have been a disaster: “I found out I was pregnant at nine weeks but was unable to have a termination until 12 weeks for medical reasons.
“I also had to go for a second scan and a pre-operation assessment which added an extra week on for me. I would have missed the legal termination.”
According to Marie Stopes International, very few abortions (one per cent) occur after 20 weeks in the UK, and the vast majority (91 per cent) take place under 13 weeks.
Before the Abortion Act in 1968, women used back-street clinics to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
“In the interest of a life, I’d want to make my decision quickly regardless of whether I was pro-life or pro-choice and in the interest of my own health,” says Gemma.
A spokesman said: “Both the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the British Medical Association have said that a 24-week limit is appropriate. The important thing is that we stick with the scientific perspective.”
Anti-abortion activists’ thoughts
Anti-abortion activists believe that once the foetus has a heart-beat, it has human rights. Some argue that abortion clinics are ‘baby-killers’.
Kingston student Georgie, 20, knows only too well the reality of pro-life. “My mum had me when she was only 16-years-old,” she says.
“My family are pro-life, whatever the circumstance. It may be an emotional time for anyone discovering they are pregnant, but I know my mum doesn’t regret having me. A cut isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you look to the future.”
Helen Marsen from Marie Stopes gives this advice: “Having a pregnancy which is unplanned or unwanted can be a difficult experience. However it is one that many women go through so you are not alone.”
ARE YOU PREGNANT?
- Marie Stopes International has a 24-hour helpline called One Call
- It is manned by trained health professionals, including counsellors.
- Counselling is available either over the telephone or face to face.
- You can call One Call anytime on 0845 300 8090.
- You can also visit your local GP, Kingston University’s Health Clinic or one of many websites out there to help and support you through this time: