If there is one thing that sets women apart from men, it is the defining fact that women can carry a new life, while men cannot. Not many things are more precious and rewarding than carrying and raising a child. Unfortunately, such things tend to need perfect timing as well as the emotional, physical and financial resources to carry it through.

Many women, however, find themselves pregnant without having anticipated it. “The ages of people who have crisis pregnancies vary from girls as young as twelve, to women in their forties,” said Sandra van der Merwe, crisis counsellor for crisis pregnancies in centres around Pretoria. A study looking at pregnancy rates amongst scholars and students between 2002 and 2008 showed than an average of 58.22 learners and students per 1000 were pregnant. The pregnancy rate in this group has risen from 51.4% in 2002 to 62.8% in 2008. The pregnancy becomes a crisis when the circumstances surrounding the baby are not suitable for its upbringing. This can be for a multitude of reasons: the mother doesn’t want to be a single-parent, she has not completed her education, she isn’t financially stable enough to raise a child or she simply isn’t ready to become a mother. This is not an issue of preventative measures, but more about what happens once a woman discovers she is pregnant.

When it comes to crisis pregnancies, many women tend to opt for the termination of the pregnancy, and more often than not, it is not because the foetus is unwanted, but that the mother feels as though she has no other option. Some women find themselves in desperate situations, and it is important that they can make informed decisions. Hence, women need to know about the options available to them.

Mauritz Lubcker, Rag HK of Kiaat, promotes and supports awareness of crisis pregnancies. “The Kiaat and Curlitizia Rag float’s theme is all in support of pregnancy and the empowering of women, even though you are in a difficult situation, you don’t have to go through it alone, there is no need to fly solo,” said Mauritz. Along with plans to have workshops and information sessions on crisis pregnancies, he also shared that there are long-term plans to make these sessions compulsory for all students, particularly first years. “We want to show that abortion shouldn’t be the only option, and this could be a chance for pregnant women to see that you can make a difference by considering adoption,” said Mauritz. Abortion cases have risen in staggering numbers since the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act 2005 was passed so that women could have free abortions in public hospitals. The intention was to curb fatalities and injuries often caused by back-street abortions. This procedure, however, tends to leave women with extensive emotional scarring and trauma, with little long-term psychological help available. “There are more rewarding and manageable ways of handling a crisis pregnancy,” said Annemie Franck, coordinator of the Crisis Pregnancy campaign. A crisis pregnancy initiative has been started, and crisis centres are developing across the country, with a number of them situated here in Pretoria. What these crisis centres aim to do is to offer the alternative means of adoption, where the birth mother is assissted free of charge, with extensive psychological help being offered during and after the pregnancy. There is housing for the birth mother should she want to keep her pregnancy a secret, and everything is done with the utmost confidentiality and respect. “Adoption is an option,” Franck continued. “There is no need to make rushed decisions. There are people who can help you.” Franck also explained how it is important to understand that the adoption industry makes no money, and that adoption isn’t for infertile and rich people only. Adoption, she says, is for anybody who is over 18, can afford to take care of a child, and is emotionally and mentally suitable. Single parents and gay couples are able to adopt as well.

Though the idea of being judged is daunting when it comes to a crisis pregnancy, selflessness needs to be in order so that an individual can make the right decision for both herself and her baby. Fear and uncertainty is inevitable, but that is the case with most difficult situations in life. All you need to do is muster some bravery, and resolutely deal with the problem.

Image: Hanro Spangenberg

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