Madison Duddy speaks with Northern Ireland’s pro-life campaigner Dawn McAvoy
The pro-choice movement feeds off the modern-day feminism movement. Notable slogans like “my body, my choice” are meant to empower women. Dawn McAvoy, a founder of Northern Ireland’s Both Lives Matter organisation, says this ‘feminist’ narrative actually hurts women and stems from a patriarchal structured world.
“Because the current narrative around feminism is that women’s rights equal the right to terminate the life of your unborn child, empowerment and freedom for women is defined and determined by access to abortion. Looking at the social statistics in Great Britain, we can prove that definition of feminism has not served women,” Dawn says. “What it’s done is pit women against their children. They’re at war with their children, unborn, they’re at war with their own bodies because their biology means that they can get pregnant, they’re at war with man and it’s a very aggressive, nasty space in the world of autonomy and abortion rights.”
Dawn believes true feminism is not fighting against one’s body but recognising and embracing what it means to be a woman.
“What we want to say is ‘women, our biology and our fertility means we get pregnant, we can procreate, we give life, and that is a special gift’, and true feminism and being pro-woman means welcoming that new life, recognising the possibility of it, and enabling women to have a place in society in their pregnancy and motherhood.”
Both Lives Matter
At Both Lives Matter, Dawn understands that many people want to find a voice in the pro-life movement but don’t have a secular platform. Both Lives Matter invites people, regardless of faith, to join in the conversation of abortion and help women find resources and support to carry out their pregnancies.
“It’s not a religious campaign. If we are invited to do church talks, we will certainly reflect on theology and God’s work, but we don’t believe you need to have a faith to defend people in life. We felt that there were a lot of people in Northern Ireland that were more secular and who were struggling to find a campaign that would send unborn children and mothers support during pregnancy, but not in a religious perspective necessarily,” says Dawn.
As the leading voice at Both Lives Matter, Dawn can personally connect with pregnant women in crisis, because she once faced an unplanned pregnancy. This experience proved the strength of her pro-life beliefs.
“When I was at university, I was in my second year and I found out that I was pregnant and thankfully I had a long-standing boyfriend. When I went to the GP to confirm the pregnancy, she asked what I was going to do, and I said I was going to withdraw from university and she said, ‘you don’t have to do that, you can have an abortion’, and that’s when I realised how accessible, how easy it was. Another doctor told me ‘not to throw my life away’.”
This experience made her realise how little support there is for pregnant women and how abortion is pushed as the only option for women to keep their place in society. Although unplanned pregnancies alter the course of one’s life, Dawn emphasises they don’t ruin it.
The law here should protect life, but services need to be in place and support systems to enable life and affirm life.”
“I suppose those two statements stuck with me and made me think ‘what choices do women really have?’. The law says no to abortion in Northern Ireland, and 100,000 people are alive today because of it, but the law on its own doesn’t help women to live. The law here should protect life, but services need to be in place and support systems to enable life and affirm life. The focus of the Both Lives Matter campaign is to always think about both lives that are in existence and not pit one against the other, it would never be a matter of, ‘end this pregnancy, don’t throw your life away, you’ll get other chances to have children’. It shouldn’t have to be that decision and women should be able to keep their place in society when they’re pregnant and as mothers, not instead of being pregnant.”
To support pregnant women, Both Lives Matter looks at “the reality of the position of people in a pregnancy crisis”. Dawn says the crisis isn’t the 40 weeks of pregnancy but the circumstances like finances, support and their stage in life.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so we’re developing a services directory page on our website and looking around Northern Ireland to see what services are in place, counselling and practical services, to support women in pregnancy crisis, to enable her to continue in her pregnancy. And, of course, not every woman feels able to be a parent, so we do talk about adoption and fostering as a valid alternative that is too often not discussed,” Dawn says.
In a world that pushes a pro-choice narrative, Dawn noted that she is often taken aback by how little of an understanding people have of abortion, scientifically and morally.
“I was shocked last night when I did a couple of video interviews for London media shows. The contempt with which they held our views and opinions shows the lack of respect and the disregard and denial of unborn life. I find it to be anti-scientific, anti-human,” Dawn says. “There are 50 million abortions in the world every year, nine million just in the UK, and I hope that we can start pushing back against that, highlighting the truth that is the harm of abortion.”