BY SIMON CALDWELL
COUNSELLORS have revealed that they have noticed a significant increase in the number of professional women who are seeking advice after undergoing abortions. They also said there had been an "incredible increase" in the numbers of migrants who had turned to them for help after becoming pregnant. Clair Rees, the London regional coordinator of Life, a pro-life charity, said that the cost of living and the perceived impact a baby would have on a woman's career meant more women were ending their pregnancies in abortion clinics.
"For those young professionals who work in the City, far from work being a condition making it possible to found a family, it appears to be becoming a barrier to doing so," she said in a podcast created for the July 1 annual Day for Life of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. "We have for a while now been concerned that the particular pressures faced by young people working in the City mean that, when they are in a situation of unplanned pregnancy, they feel that they have no other choice but to terminate that pregnancy. The main factors include the high price of housing, with the average now above £200,000. Childcare is also very expensive over £200 a week for a place at a central London nursery. "While starting salaries in the City are above the national average, they are not sufficient to meet this level of expense. "Young professionals fall through a gap: too wealthy to receive state or charitable support, yet not wealthy enough to be able to bear the costs of bringing up a child under the present conditions."
She said that a study by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute for Education in London found that over a third of graduates now in their 20s are likely to be childless by the age of 45. Even those graduates that do have children, she said, are likely to have fewer, and have them later.
Miss Rees said that a 2005 study by the Corporation of London and the Centre for Social and Economic Inclusion found that only 32 per cent of City employers provided some form of financial assistance towards childcare for their staff, and only about five per cent had a formal childcare policy. "There is also a very real perception that having a child negatively affects women's career prospects," said Miss Rees. "The long-hours culture of the City is another obstacle. Twelve-hour days are common, and I have heard of one woman who did not leave her office before midnight for over a month."
She said that as a result many professional women were attending London care centres for post-abortion counselling "suffering from postabortion trauma".
She said: "We are seeking to understand what kind of practical support this group of people would need in order to feel able to continue their pregnancies, and to fill the gap in charitable support that we have identified. As part of this process, we are seeking testimonials, in confidence, from those who have been through this experience, whatever choice they made. No one should feel forced, through economic circumstance, to abort their child."
Miss Rees also said that since more central and eastern European countries joined the European Union in 2004 the London counselling centres had been inundated with requests for help from migrants, many of whom are Catholics. Life was now responding by translating its written materials into a range of European and Asian languages. Martin Foley, the chief executive of Life, said that his charity was at present unable to release figures to demonstrate the changing trends but was in the process of collating such evidence. "Further investigation is required," he said. Auxiliary Bernard Longley of Westminster said a collection will be taken in parishes in aid of Life and its work in the care of pregnant women, unsupported mothers, women with problems relating to pregnancy, or suffering from the effects of abortion. "It is very timely for us to look again and be clear about what the Church teaches regarding the sacredness of life," he said. "We believe that the human person has a right to life. The right to life is something which is God-given and every other right depends upon it."
The conference comes just weeks after the leader of Catholics in Scotland. Cardinal Keith O'Brien. said abortion was an "unspeakable crime" and likened the abortion rate in his country to "two Dunblane massacres a day". In remarks to mark the Scottish Day for Life on May 31, he also questioned whether politicians who support abortion could continue to take Holy Communion.
Bishop Longley, however, would say only that every Catholic in public life was expected to have a full understanding of the Church's teaching and their consciences must be informed by this. Mr Foley told the conference that it was likely that the country's abortion laws would be debated by Parliament within the next year. He said "We would like to see a significant reduction of the upper time limit of 24 weeks that would save lives without any accompanying liberalisation of the law.
"A common refrain from Parliamentarians is 'there are too many abortions, what are we going to do about it?' Well, we at Life have a solution to our appalling abortion rate. The pro-abortionists are just offering more of the same." The annual Day for Life this year coincides with the 40th anniversary of the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act and this year focuses specifically on the value of the life of the unborn child.