I know the fear and confusion of an unplanned pregnancy, but legalised abortion in NI will lead to repercussions we can't begin to imagine
Nicole Watt, an American living in Northern Ireland, had a termination, aged 19, following a crisis pregnancy. Here, she says the proposed extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to the province would be a human catastrophe
I don't really like writing opinion pieces on such sensitive and polarised issues as abortion. I believe these conversations are better spoken face-to-face, eye-to-eye. There are too many intimate layers, and written words can be taken the wrong way.
There has already been far too much condemnation and not enough understanding on both sides of this battle.
As a pro-life advocate, one of my personal pet peeves is the lack of foster carers and adoptive parents within the pro-life movement.
Our reasons for not taking in children mirror the reasons given for abortion rights (ie existing family members, not the right time, busy career).
How does that reflect the belief many of us claim to hold that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for another?
Changing our attitudes in this area would go a long way in creating and sustaining a more genuine and compassionate pro-life culture, by which, perhaps, we could have avoided this situation altogether.
That said, I believe, as an American living in Northern Ireland, I would be remiss if I did not share what I know about abortion, the changing pro-life culture of America and why it's important to Northern Ireland at a time such as this. Hindsight is always 20/20. I can think of no other way to begin.
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In the months and weeks leading up to the recent vote to legalise abortion, pro-choice advocates have worked hard to garner support for their cause.
One such way was by expressing public empathy toward those affected by new restrictive abortion laws in several of the states, with articles such as "In Northern Ireland, our hearts break for Alabama".
While these articles may gain the solidarity of some of the more vocal members of the country, I believe the changing abortion culture in the States, toward a more pro-life stance, is largely misunderstood.
I can tell you, from my own experience and over two decades of research, the growing pro-life mindset is vastly different - and much broader - than pro-choice groups would prefer to know, or acknowledge.
In addition, many women seeking to terminate a pregnancy do not want sympathy in their difficulty to obtain one. Rather, they want us to know why they feel they have to make this choice (or who is forcing them to make this choice) and, in many instances, they want someone to make it possible for them to keep their baby.
Instead, they find themselves caught in the crossfire of a battle that is not listening to their cries.
The consensus the pro-choice camp would like us all to believe is that there is a group of lawmakers - overbearing, grey-haired men and their fanatical, religious friends - who are dead-set on controlling women's bodies.
Unfortunately, I cannot disagree that people like this exist. However, what is more accurate is that over 40 years of legalised abortion makes for a long road and Americans have had plenty of time looking in the rear-view mirror.
What we see is that "freedom of choice" hasn't been what we'd thought, or been led to believe, it would be.
It certainly hasn't ended the poverty, violence against women, fatherlessness, or child abuse problems that abortion supporters point to as reasons why abortion must be made available on demand.
To the contrary - abortion seems to have empowered these tragedies and crimes to continue with greater impunity. And it's created a whole host of issues we didn't expect.
In response, pro-life advocates have arisen from divergent circumstances, beliefs and walks of life such as:
- LGBT groups who support non-violence and the right for every person to live and love;
- atheists and scientists whose beliefs are derived from factual information;
- researchers and modern-day slavery abolitionists, who discovered the prevalence of forced abortions in sex- trafficking;
- siblings of aborted children;
- families who make no distinction between stillborn, miscarried and aborted children at the National Memorial for the Unborn in Tennessee;
- doctors and clinicians who witnessed foetuses on ultrasounds trying to escape abortion tools;
- public figures, conceived in rape, who have (along with their mothers) become symbols of hope, courage and strength and help millions of children around the world;
- abortion survivors;
- women (and men) who were told there would be no repercussions to abortion, only to suffer with unexplained grief, depression and relationship problems;
- fathers who wanted to have the child, but were told what they wanted didn't matter, and,
- 'Jane Roe' (of Roe v Wade), who feels her involvement in that case was the worst decision of her life. Her baby was given up for adoption, not aborted.
These groups and individuals are not only fighting for the life of children, but for the women they see being abused by a system that claims to help and empower them.
Research is also changing the way we see abortion. In the last four decades, over 45 million abortions have been carried out in America; less than 2% account for rape, incest and medical emergencies combined.
For what other reasons have over 44 million abortions been performed? Because it's our right?
Medical advancements, hearing a heartbeat, seeing a child on an ultrasound screen, understanding a child could feel pain during the abortion, have been slowly changing our minds - and hearts - on the ethics of abortion.
It becomes increasingly difficult to justify defending "our rights" when "our rights" come at such a high cost to another.
I had an abortion, aged 19, so I know the fear and confusion of an unplanned pregnancy, both personally and from the stories told by so many women and men who have had this experience. The issues involved can be delicate and painful and certainly too much to resolve in this article.
How I wish I could speak personally to each person affected by abortion - whether you feel remorse or relief, whether you are unexpectedly pregnant or know someone who is.
But since I cannot, I must say here - abortion, especially legalised up to 28 weeks, will bring repercussions that cannot be understood until we have lived them. I hope we don't have to. Hindsight is always 20/20. I can think of no other way to end this.