Monday, 22 October 2012

Teenage pregnancies - how can we help?

Thanks to Les Whittaker of the East Grinstead Gospel of Life group for drawing our attention to an article in his local paper which reveals that 75% of under-18s who fall pregnant in Mid Sussex have an abortion - in other words, 3 out of 4. This is apparently the highest rate in the county.  Here in Horsham we fall into West Sussex whose rate stands at 59%, but this is still above the national average of 50%.

You can read the article here.

Now pro-choicers might point to this as celebrating the availability of abortion facilities for young girls and their "freedom of choice".  We wonder exactly how free this choice often is, however, in a social culture that lauds sexual freedom and presents abortion as the convenient and essentially scruple-free answer when pregnancy arises.  It wouldn't be surprising if when combined with pressure from family and boyfriends, the necessity to adapt education and career plans and a natural concern at coping with motherhood at such a young age, this prevailing cultural outlook tended to panic young women down the road to the abortion clinic without pause for thought.

So what can pro-lifers do about these figures?  The answer must surely lie in active support for girls coping with crisis pregnancies.  Teenage pregnancy is a big deal and young women facing it deserve time and space to think through the options without pressure.  One of the best places for them to do this is in a local crisis pregnancy centre.  As Sara Jackson, manager of the Haven Crisis Pregnancy Centre in Burgess Hill, remarks in the article, "We offer the opportunity for young women to come and talk through their options. Some may feel that abortion is the easiest option because it is over quickly. But we aim to give the girls a bit more time and we give them more information so they can make an informed decision."

It is also important to ensure that young women realise abortion isn't the consequence-free, simple solution it is sometimes portrayed as being, the easy alternative to facing an unplanned pregnancy.    Rob Williamson, chairman of the Mid Sussex branch of LIFE which offers support to young girls who find themselves pregnant and even safe houses where they can stay and have their babies, says in the article, "These statistics are shocking because, first of all, girls should not be put through this type of trauma. We are desperately sorry for the girls, of course, and we are also sorry if this results in an abortion... the turmoil these girls can go through is huge. I think more teenagers are seeking out abortions because they do not feel ready for a baby, but we can help to support them."

So how can we each help to offer the support that will help young girls feel able to save the life of their babies by either keeping them or putting them forward for adoption rather than abortion?  Of course, if we know anyone facing a crisis pregnancy, then we can put ourselves out to offer friendship, a listening ear and time to chat.  It's vital to arm ourselves with local knowledge so that we can direct friends in the direction of nearby people and organisations that can help them.  And even if we aren't personally close to anyone in this situation, we can still help. Our local pregnancy crisis centre - in Horsham this is Oasis - and charities such as LIFE and The Good Counsel Network will appreciate our support, whether financially or in some practical way.  For example, St John's Pro Life Group hope to organise a collection of baby goods at church for Oasis to give to young mums.  See our minutes as linked to Katherine's previous post.

And of course, we can all pray, pray, pray!  Here at St John's group we've been saying a daily Memorare for the 40 Days For Life campaign and for all those facing crisis pregnancies.  Perhaps you'd like to join us?

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession was left unaided.  Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother.  To thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.  O mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition but in thy mercy hear and answer me.  Amen.

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