GROUPS fighting the Abortion Bill—who are rallying their forces before Parliament re-opens next Tuesday—have begun to alter their strategy.
As one organiser told the CATHOLIC HERALD the "negative" approach—simply opposing the bill—has its limitations.
At meetings over the country, he finds more and more people saying, "Very well, you oppose the bill. But what will you put in its place? What are you going to offer those desperate unmarried girls and mothers so they won't feel they need abortions?"
The question is just beginning to prick the consciences of those Christians who have been outraged to find the majority of their neighbours ready to condone abortions.
NO EASY ANSWER And the answer? Not easy. But these indignant Christians may find at least part of the solution in the work of the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child.
For the past half century the council has been fighting the hypocritical climate of opinion that tries to make unmarried pregnant girls "suffer for their sins" by making it as unpleasant as possible for them to have and rear their babies.
As the council states, in its annual report, issued last week, much of this attitude is caused by the fear that helping unmarried mothers might tend to undermine the family.
But, it claims that such fears arc misplaced: "there is no evidence whatsoever that legal and social equality for illegitimate persons would lead to an increase in the percentage of illegitimate births or in the number of extra-marital unions."
On the contrary: "A more sympathetic social climate is needed so that individual citizens feel able to accept unmarried mothers and children in their midst without censure and without that hurtful comment which may have such long-term effects on the child."
The first step, says the council, is to bring about equal legal status for legitimate and illegitimate children. The second, adequate financial provisions and social services, and the most urgent need of housing.
Only a few local authorities
make provisions for them until the mothers are able to go out and work and find a place for themselves.
More help has come from voluntary bodies—and this is one very real contribution that the Christian groups who oppose abortion could make.
It does not require vast sums to help. As the council notes, last year 16 women, who had at one time appealed for help to the council as unmarried mothers, offered rooms and advice to others.
"One of them fostered illegitimate babies, one gave a home to several inadequate mothers and taught them how to look after their young babies, and one kept a spare room vacant as a shelter in an emergency.
A girl who had subsequently married turned the basement of her house into a flat for two mothers and their babies."
As the council puts it, with this kind of help, "the mother may begin to feel that she and her child are a real family, even if an incomplete one."