25 Jul 2014

Abortion help programme launched

9:38 am on 25 July 2014

A programme to help women struggling after having an abortion started this week in Tauranga.

Barbara Hill is running the Living in Colour programme, which was developed by author Jenny McDermid and is run in Canada.

Ms Hill had an abortion almost 40 years ago and said up to as late as last year she was still feeling sadness over her decision to terminate her pregnancy.

"I always had an anniversary reaction. Every January I got the blues. There was a lack of bonding. I had excessive anger. I disliked babies. I still have a job dealing with any babies under about six months old," she said.

She also turned to alcohol to suppress her feelings but has finally let go of the grief, having been through the programme twice.

"I've become more joyful. I've forgiven myself. I'm more at peace and I have a sense of moving on, and I think it's released me to really enjoy my kids that I have," she said.

Janice Tetley-Jones, who runs Tauranga's Pregnancy Choice centre was behind bringing the programme to New Zealand. It has had two trials and its first full programme started this week.

She said it was not based on religion but did make reference to scripture and a higher being. That higher being could be anyone or anything, and was a strategy also used in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Ms Tetley-Jones said she had seen some people in the centre who had suffered so badly they had ended up in mental health clinics.

"Often they just open up and start talking about the pain of that experience, and it's something that we want to say 'hey look, we've got a programme, Living in Colour, that we can offer you and help you work through some of that grief'."

Psychologist Dawn deWitt has worked in post-abortion healing for five years and said while the programme was not a substitute for professional help, it could be effective as a support group.

"Women who are going through this kind of experience are often feeling very alone and usually have nowhere to turn. They carry their pain and their secret inwardly," she said.

"The Living in Colour programme offers them a place to be able to talk about their experience."

Ms deWitt said not all women experienced negative feelings after an abortion but some did.

Ms Hill, as one who did, hoped the programme would eventually go nationwide to help others who had experienced similar feelings to her.