A speech by Belinda Manzoney at the 19th Annual Rally for Life.
Hi everyone, I’m Belinda. I have two children. I would say I’m a pretty average mum… Some days my children drive me crazy and push all of my buttons. There are the piles of unfolded washing that speak for themselves. But, behind the mess and the chaos … are my kids, and to them … I’m a super mum.
Yesterday I sat and received abuse online for stating that I was coming here today to make this speech. Part of me broke and felt disheartened, as I wondered how a few women could join together and attack me as an individual, stating I was against women, I was inhumane and I didn’t deserve my kids.
As my courage was wearing thin, I heard a noise from the basinet next to my bed. I looked over and there was a smile, a little life, staring back at me. It was then that a voice came into my mind whispering, “nothing worth having, comes easily”.
Let me tell you a story:
A girl I knew was 16 when she fell pregnant. She was in an abusive relationship, surrounded by drugs and was an extremely unstable person. After doing home tests, she chose to head to her local doctors for confirmation and advice. She sat and saw two lines come up once again, then she was quickly and bluntly handed a referral. The referral wasn’t for counselling, or support. Instead, it was for an abortion clinic. The doctor looked this young girl in the eyes and told her she would ruin her life by going ahead with this pregnancy and that this was the best option for her. Such direct and personal advice, from a man who had met her only five minutes prior.
The girl then went home and told her dad about the pregnancy, and he was understandably angry. He said she could have an abortion which would never be spoken of again, or be unwelcome to stay in the family home.
She left, to make a decision, when her mum and a friend recommended going to a place for advice, Pregnancy Problem House. She figured her pregnancy was very much a problem, so it was fitting that she went. It was there, that she saw a dot moving quickly. This dot, was actually a heart beating. What she had been told was a mere few cells, was the beating heart of the baby in her womb.
That 16 year old girl was me, Belinda. Fast forward five years, my baby is now at school. I find out I’m pregnant again, this time in a stable marriage with an amazing man, with a home and surrounded by tonnes of stability. I was over the moon, a sibling for my child and a new addition to our family. Morning sickness came, but I was stoked because it meant the pregnancy was progressing normally.
When my pregnancy was at 18 weeks and I was at work, I felt a gush of water. Embarrassingly, I wondered if I had wet myself and so I kept working. Surely nothing would go wrong. A few days later, water was still coming so I went to the doctor. I was sent to the hospital, where it was confirmed I was in labour, dilated and rapidly losing fluid.
I was tragically told that my baby would be born non-viable. This baby that I’d seen wriggling and sucking on her hands just a few weeks before was non-viable! How?
Five percent chance was the statistical figure I was given for the survival of my baby … And with that figure, came the advice that I’d heard once before, when I was 16, to abort … the best thing for everyone.
Twelve hours passed and the doctors were surprised because normally in this situation the mother would have given birth by then. Then came 24 hours, and then, 48 hours. The ultrasounds showed no fluid around the baby and as I looked at the screen, my baby looked trapped, with no volume to move around in like the other scans before.
The doctors recommended that it was in my best interest to be induced there and then, to give birth naturally, and to allow the baby to die. That way, there was no risk of a serious infection for me, we could grieve and the baby would not be born disabled or deformed. Apparently, disability would be worse than death. Wasn’t this baby’s life still worth more than that, even if born without eyesight or the ability to walk?
As time passed each day, the team of doctors would pop into the room and share the same advice, same statistics and the probability of what was going to happen. Over and over again, I heard that I could remove what they referred to as the foetus medically before 20 weeks and told that this was the best option. As though the option of my baby surviving wasn’t an option at all. I was told that if the baby was born alive before 22 weeks they would sadly leave it to die, with no attempt to save it.
The baby held on, with no fluid for two weeks. The 20-week mark arrived and with it the final chance to decide on being induced and in control of my baby’s life and my own health. The final opportunity to terminate. I made a decision to keep the pregnancy and let nature take its own course. However, I certainly still felt grief and fear beyond my control, especially going against medical advice.
Well, my baby miraculously hung in there until just four weeks before its due date. It was at that point, the doctors smiled and asked me if I was ready to have my baby.
As teams of doctors waited to see what was wrong with my baby—what limbs it may be missing, what disability it might hold because of the lack of fluid—out came a perfect, six pounds of life, a little girl!
She was born with an infection and put in ICU, I grew an infection and was quickly treated, but we were alive. The doctors checked over my baby girl and said there was nothing wrong with her, externally and internally, she was absolutely fine, more than fine.
It makes me wonder how many wrong diagnoses are given, and how many lose lives because of that?
Yesterday when I was told I didn’t care about the rights of women, it came to my realisation that actually, I’m speaking today because I do care.
I care more than to sugarcoat the truth or to worry about being politically correct. I care enough to see the potential happiness these women could experience should they battle through, the support they could be surrounded with, the way they wouldn’t just be tossed aside after an abortion and forced to grieve secretly. I see the strength, I see the courage. Yes I empathise with the challenge, and the heartache, but I also see, tangibly within my two girls, the potential, what could be.
Society screams that by fighting for the life of vulnerable babies we are fighting against adult rights. But where do our rights lie when our babies are birthed from medical complications prior to 23 weeks and yet deemed not worth resuscitating—and we have no choice in the matter.
So, today I am choosing to declare life over these women and their situations, and furthermore, speak life for the babies that cannot yet speak. I know from seeing my kids growing they are immensely grateful. I’m choosing to be hated if it means standing for the Lillys and the Islas, because I know they have the potential to be the Mother Theresas, or the Florence Nightingales of this world, and who am I to stop that.