Belfast Telegraph

A woman's choice ... two sides to the abortion debate

The opening of the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast has reignited the abortion debate. Here campaigners for and against have their say

An unexpected pregnancy can turn a woman's world upside down

Pro life - Martina McElroy

I've seen details of the new Belfast Marie Stopes clinic in the news. From what I gather, they will provide abortions for women who have been raped, or whose lives would be badly affected by the birth.

I agree with that, but not with other cases; after all, you're ruining that baby's life.

It isn't right to take a life, in my view - even if it's only a wee cell - as that baby could be the person to find the cure for cancer.

Family planning is something I agree with and I received the pill at a clinic myself.

But I would forget to take the pill, even though the consequences were explained, and I fell pregnant at 17.

I'd moved out and wasn't living at home.

You could say I was the selfish teenager, working at a few jobs, having left Little Flower girls' school a couple of months earlier.

I grew up in those two months. I was devastated when I knew I was pregnant.

I told my friend first, then rang my Mum, who cried, as she'd been trying for another baby.

Sophie was born at the Mater Hospital nearly three years ago and she's beautiful.

When I was pregnant, I got different reactions and my doctor did tell me that there were various options, including abortion, although he didn't use the word. But I knew I wanted to have her.

There were days when I wished I wasn't pregnant, days I got really excited.

But when you feel that heartbeat and that body growing inside you, it's amazing.

Now I do youth work, having got support from the mother and baby group at Youth Action NI.

My boyfriend has never let Sophie down and was brilliant throughout my pregnancy.

As I have a large family, I had lots of support. We had to get jobs and I was on housing benefit, but I am going to university next year to study youth work.

I just don't agree with this new abortion clinic.

I know there are women who need help - like my friend, who had to travel to England when her baby's organs were developing outside the body.

If she'd had a clinic to go to here, she wouldn't have had to wait with a dead baby inside for three days.

Yet other women could lie and say they'd been raped to get an abortion, but it's very selfish. They need to be taught."

Pro- choice - Gemma Kelly

When I first moved to Northern Ireland seven years ago, as a full-time student, I had a crisis pregnancy.

It was unplanned and, of course, I had no idea abortion was illegal here.

The relationship wasn't one that was going to continue, I had no money and my stay in Belfast was supposed to be temporary.

So for me, abortion was the only option. I went to London and it was awful. I felt so alone in that situation, with no family and friends. I was eight weeks pregnant and flew there and back in a day as I couldn't afford a hotel.

It was okay at the clinic; really, I just wanted it to be over. I felt as if I waited hours and hours, but it probably wasn't that long.

In the waiting-room, I saw lots of other women, from teenagers to women in their thirties. Some were visibly upset, some looked bored and were reading magazines, as in any waiting-room.

I had the abortion under general anaesthetic. At the time, I didn't tell anybody I was pregnant and, when I told my family some months later, I got a good reaction.

Two years later, once I had got married to a nice man, I got pregnant again. The circumstances were totally different.

It was planned, I had a proper job and could support a child.

Once I had the baby, I realised how difficult it would have been for me to support that first child.

I feel grateful to have the emotional, psychological and financial resources to be a much better mother than I would have been.

I did tell my husband about the first experience. It's not something we talk about a lot, but he felt I'd done the right thing.

If I'd been able to go to a clinic in Belfast seven years ago, it would have been better. The law really needs to be changed here.

I belong to the Alliance for Choice, as I think politicians in Northern Ireland are totally cowardly in avoiding something that is happening every day.

They're keen not to have this difficult conversation, but it's as if nobody cares."

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