I became a midwife to protect life, not to end it

In less than a month's time a new law could be enforced in Northern Ireland which would permit abortion for any reason up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Midwife Debbie Marshall explains why this would be such a travesty for those working to protect mothers and babies

I became a midwife because I want to work with women. I want to empower women, to come alongside them and walk with them through one of the most amazing processes: pregnancy and having a baby.

Women are amazing and able to overcome so much. One of my favourite things about being a midwife is the fact that the very act of giving birth reveals the strength and resilience of women. No matter how she ends up giving birth she has, all at once, become vulnerable and strong, she has faced her fear head-on and emerged incredibly powerful. I get to watch that and cheer her on.

That all sounds lovely and some days it is, but a much more serious reality and responsibility of my job is keeping these amazing women and their precious babies safe. With our specialist knowledge we feel and listen and watch and discern when there is danger for women and for their babies. To the very best of our abilities we get help when help is needed.

With our own hearts racing and minds full of hope – and sometimes fear – we save lives. We save mummies and we save babies. And sometimes we don't. We stand with and weep with women who have lost their babies, with women who are grieving because they have lost a loved little person with a name and fingers and toes. We honour that little life with them. We give dignity and help them make memories of children who won't get to go home. 

My heart is so heavy and full of sadness that come October I may be pouring my best self into this job that I love to save and preserve life at all costs, while in the next room my colleagues may be asked to stop that very instinct and to instead not just allow death but to make it happen. I feel it goes completely against who we are as midwives.

At the dip of a baby's heart rate I could have my room full of doctors, nurses, anaesthetists, and paediatricians. All to save life. And in the next room there may be my friend, a lone midwife, with a lone mother and a heart rate that is ignored simply because that life is for some reason unwanted.

Life is not disposable. I refuse to believe that women need abortion in order to gain equality with men. I see the push for abortion as a symptom of a patriarchal society that feels we need to conform to men's view of success. Instead, we as women need to be campaigning for more rights and support, so that we can have our children and make our way in the world.

It angers me how society has managed to pit women against their own children and frame it as feminism. Women need community and support and empowering. Women can overcome so much and come out stronger on the other side. Abortion is not the answer. 

Debbie Marshall is a midwife from Northern Ireland. She is one of 800 healthcare professionals who has signed a petition opposing the liberalisation of abortion laws

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