Wednesday 18 October 2017

This kind of 'help' isn't what most frightened women need

One of the banners which the ICBR is being refused permission to display at airports
One of the banners which the ICBR is being refused permission to display at airports

Catherine O'Mahony

Attention women considering abortion! Overwhelmed at the notion of coping with an infant? Scared of telling your family? Terrified of the stigma of parenting alone? Afraid of being isolated? Concerned about making it through college with a baby? Or how you might ever hold down a job? Daunted at the cost of the cot, the pram, the high chair and then the expensive 18 years that follow the birth?

Worry no more, because there is a solution, and it's called the Irish Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (ICBR).

Isn't that a pro-life group that wants to stop abortion, you ask? Well no, it turns out it is more than that. Because according to the signs it has been planning to put up at Irish airports this summer, it is not only encouraging people to reverse plans to travel to the UK for an abortion, it is offering to help them out.

"Departing abortion passengers," its proposed sign reads. "Stop! We are here to help you and your baby."

Well, an offer of help can't be scoffed at. Anyone who has had a baby knows just how gruelling the experience can be. So if the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is going to "help" pregnant women, this can only mean - we must assume - that the group is willing to provide the following services to all women who are facing going into childbirth in less than ideal circumstances:

1. A birthing partner to arrive at the mother's door one week before her due date, making sure she is not alone when she goes into labour and that there is someone there to drive her to the hospital and mop her brow while giving birth.

2. A nanny to assist full time for the first six weeks of the child's life, taking over night-time care so a mother can get some rest. Also, possibly a chef to provide nutritious meals.

3. Full financial assistance for the period of a mother's maternity leave, including an income top-up to ensure she and the child have a decent standard of living.

4. Ad hoc additional payments to cover one-off expenses related to the baby.

5. Free childcare to be organised around the individual's working hours, enabling mothers to return to work or resume their studies as soon as is feasible, without concern for their offspring's wellbeing. To continue until child is 13.

6. Top-up financial assistance for the next 18 years to make sure mothers can cover the estimated full €100,000 cost of raising a child to college age (help with college fees thereafter should also be considered).

7. 24/7 psychological support services and a sounding board for parental queries mothers may have. For the next 18 years.

That is what they mean, right?

Well, no, but should it not be? Expressing anti-abortion views is one thing. Waving posters of dead foetuses at women who are about to board a plane having decided to undergo a possibly traumatic procedure is quite another.

It seems the only tangible "benefit" the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform is currently willing to offer pregnant women is to refund the cost of a plane trip should they agree not to proceed with an abortion. I can't imagine there will be a stampede.

The "education" projects are unlikely to go ahead, since the airports have said they are unlikely to allow them. Given that the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform will therefore have some time on its hands this summer, perhaps it could start considering the question of what might constitute meaningful "help" for a person who does not feel equipped or ready to have a baby.

Because only then should we, as a society, be expected to take its "education projects" seriously.

Irish Independent

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