The Stanton Project is not the first crisis pregnancy centre in Belfast but it is the most controversial. A crisis pregnancy centre is nothing like it sounds. They are not centres that give impartial medical advice to women who are feeling vulnerable. They are centres that prey on the vulnerable to feed them misinformation from the medical hive mind that is Precious Life.
The last crisis pregnancy centre in Belfast was situated on University Avenue, to guilt students exploring their sexuality. The Stanton Clinic opened in October on Great Victoria Street, opposite the Marie Stopes clinic.
The Stanton Project started as opposition to Planned Parenthood in the U.S. This clinic is the first one outside the States. They opened clinics beside Planned Parenthood in Boise, Idaho and that has been the model since. They offer “pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, client advocacy, and other life-affirming programs to women facing unexpected pregnancies” free off charge.
Although we do have free healthcare in Northern Ireland, getting quick ultrasounds and pregnancy tests is something that women may embrace as waiting times continue to increase. Precious Life are hailing the opening of this clinic as a success but it is just more confusion for young women.
When I was in sixth year, I brought in a Precious Life leaflet to show some of my friends because I found it hilarious. But it isn’t remotely funny in hindsight. Young women who are being safe in exploring their sexuality by visiting the FPA clinics and the Brook shouldn’t face any discouragement. Sex education in Northern Ireland is non existent or provided by Precious Life. Abstinence only sex education has been proven time and time again to fail, but those who are looking into contraceptives have to go past people who are judging them – condemning them to hell for seeking prophylactics.
The booklet that younger me found so funny included facts such as 1 in 3 condoms fail and that the pill is an abortificant i.e. if you get pregnant on the pill it works as the morning after pill or abortion pills do. Not remotely true but when you have the money to print so many booklets there is no need to worry about fact checking. There was also a story about how Nicole Appleton from All Saints regretted her abortion. What is rather disturbing though is trying to google Appleton’s involvement with Precious Life or another “pro-life” organisation. Nothing. On a side note, I was not a teenager in the late nineties. This was about 2008. I don’t think they have updated their materials but perhaps they have to tell the youth of today about the evils of sexting and dick pics.
My highlight of this memory was the quiz about how you felt after having sex. It was multiple choice. You could feel: used, lonely or sad. This sex shaming is unnecessary and unhealthy.
The Stanton Healthcare Project represents another form of the status quo. The anti-abortion lobby are continuously on the offensive despite being in the overwhelming position of power. If you are looking to be seen as quickly as possible, there appears to be never ending resources behind precious life.
When Marie Stopes opened there were multiple attempts from Stormont to shut it down under the guise of wanting to help women and being opposed to private health care. The Stanton Project may be free but if its history in America is anything to by, taxpayers will be paying for it to continue to run and scaremonger.
Abortion may not be a fun topic but it is a necessary discussion. During the week I heard teenagers ask how come Savita Halappanavar couldn’t get an abortion. There is a lack of understanding of just what the situation is across the island of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, we are still waiting on guidelines promised to us many health ministers ago. Rather than address the ongoing issues, Stanton gets approved and creates a whole wealth of problems for those of us who are looking for reproductive justice.
I completed my first shift at the Alliance for Choice stall this weekend. The amount of people who refuse to engage with both us and the Precious Life stall are the ones who are going to suffer the most if they find themselves in a crisis pregnancy. They will not know that Stanton is perpetuating a dogma rather than offering impartial medical advice. They are why I’ll definitely do the stall again.
by Emma Gallen
Emma is an activist with Belfast Feminist Network. She organises BFN’s book club and is looking forward to doing more work with Alliance for Choice.