Mother angry at lack of abortion counselling

17:00, May 28 2011
After her termination was started, the teenager spoke to her father and decided to keep the baby. She later miscarried.
ANGUISH: After her termination was started, the teenager spoke to her father and decided to keep the baby. She later miscarried.

A mother is angry her 15-year-old daughter wasn't counselled through the pros and cons of having an abortion until she was on the hospital bed and presented with the termination-inducing pill.

Napier woman Natalie* said it's only one of the things medical professionals could have handled better when her daughter chose to have a second-trimester termination.

Two years ago Natalie's daughter discovered she was pregnant after taking a store-brought pregnancy test. A scan by a doctor confirmed the test, revealing she was more than three months' pregnant.

Natalie, who was overseas at the time, said her daughter didn't feel she could confide in anyone and decided to have a termination.

Four weeks later, and after a number of consultations, her doctor arranged for her to see a counsellor at Hastings Hospital. Her daughter told the Star-Times she was given a piece of paper at the hospital and asked to read and sign it.

She said no one went through it with her or explained what it meant.

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"I quickly skimmed through it... to get it over and done with," she said.

During the session the counsellor contacted Wellington Hospital and arranged for her to head down to the hospital that day, as Hastings Hospital cannot perform second-trimester abortions.

"At no time were the pros and cons of having a termination or keeping the baby discussed with her. They never sat down and went over anything like that," Natalie said.

"She just said, she got asked, `Do you not think you can be a mother?' and she said no." Natalie acknowledged more information may not have changed her daughter's mind as "at the time she didn't want the baby".

Her daughter was given petrol and accommodation vouchers, then drove to Napier to pack her bags. Her boyfriend's sister drove her to Wellington.

Natalie wondered why her daughter wasn't at home with the nanny, so rang her estranged husband. When he discovered where his daughter was, he drove to Wellington.

"He was devastated," she said.

By the time he reached his daughter, she'd already been given laminaria – a cervix dilator and labour inducer. Natalie said she was told that once she started, she couldn't turn back.

"She didn't even know what the procedure involved. She knew nothing about the development stage of the baby. I think they should be told that," she said.

"Apparently, she thought she was going to be put to sleep and she'd wake up and the baby would be gone. Was she capable of making that decision? Was it an informed choice?"

Natalie said the hospital staff handed her a pill and said she needed to take it to "get the rest of it going".

However, after talking to her father and hearing that she would have her parents' support, she became unsure about proceeding with the abortion.

That's when she talked to someone about the pros and cons of having a second-trimester termination.

As a result, she decided to keep the baby, but doctors told her there was a chance she could miscarry.

A month later, having named the baby and decided upon a teen parent unit, she did miscarry.

"She ended up having to deliver her," Natalie said. "It was awful."

Now 17, her daughter has a tattoo on her back with the baby's name and a set of little footprints. She has said if she'd had to tell her parents, things would have turned out differently.

Under section 38 of the Care of Children Act 2004, a female of any age can consent to an abortion. She does not have to inform her parents or guardians.

Family groups are calling for a law change after the Star-Times reported that a mother was horrified when her 16-year-old daughter had an abortion facilitated by the girl's school counsellor.

*Names have been changed

Sunday Star Times