My name is Lucy, I’m a sidewalk counsellor and this is my story.
Once or twice a week, myself and a group of friends, all uni-aged young women and a couple of brave guys, offer a smile and a word of support to men and women facing what can be the most scary and difficult moments of their lives, as they walk into the local abortion clinic.
Why do I choose to spend my mornings like this? It’s for my friends who have done that same terrifying walk, so scared and so alone, who wish they’d had someone – just one person – in those moments offering them another way.
It’s for the women I’ve seen walking in, barely able to look up from the ground or through their bruises and sunglasses, who say they have ‘no other choice’.
It’s for the mother I see hugging their older children goodbye while their dad waits and she goes into the clinic. I try to speak to her, but she has barely any English, and is holding back tears.
It’s for the teenage guys and girls I meet on their way to school, who may find themselves facing a crisis pregnancy one day, who are amazed when I show them the little badges that replicate the exact size and shape of their little feet when they were 10 weeks old inside the womb – the age when many children in Australia are aborted. ‘No one’s shown me this before’, they always say, and ask for some more to give their friends.
It’s for the dads I share a coffee with while they wait for their partner inside, who tell me they, too, ‘don’t have a choice’ and that they wish they could just go in there and save her. ‘She’d be a girl’, one dad told me once. ‘She’d be beautiful, like her mother … I know that if we just had her, I wouldn’t regret it, but there’d be no support for me at uni while I keep studying my Masters, and my partner loves her work’.
‘You could love this baby’, I say gently, sensing his struggle. He looks away. ‘I already do’.
I am a sidewalk counsellor, not because the men and women I meet outside the clinic are absolutely sure of their decision, have been offered all the options, and are making an empowered choice that’s best for their individual situations.
I’m there because so many of them feel like they don’t have a choice, that this is their only way out. That’s not healthcare. That’s not reproductive rights. That’s our society failing women. And that’s why I’m a sidewalk counsellor.
[Note: This testimony uses a pseudonym to preserve the identity of the woman involved.]