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Early in March, a few of the team from Castlerigg attended the SPUC Youth Conference for a weekend down in Stone, near Stoke-on-Trent. The Society for Protection of Unborn Children was something I didn’t know a lot about until recently and abortion has always been a bit of a taboo topic for me as an eighteen year old girl. It’s difficult in today’s society, especially if you want to fit in, to know when it is appropriate to voice your views on such controversial subjects and how to do so without offending others.

The conference helped me a lot with this as I got to meet other likeminded young people who were not afraid to speak out and talk with passion about being pro-life and it made me realise just how important it is that people like us do share our views with others if we want to make a difference in the world. There is nothing to be ashamed of about being pro-life, in fact, it is something to be proud of and part of being a Catholic.

My understanding of abortion was quite basic before the conference and I’d never put a lot of thought into how this experience effects people. Abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn child and since it became legalised in the UK in 1967, there have been over 8.4 million. That’s 8.4 million lives taken away from innocent, defenceless human beings. There are approximately two hundred thousand reported abortions every year in the UK with the NHS claiming one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. An abortion can take place up to 24 weeks and even later in some cases, yet statistics show a 39% chance of a baby surviving if born at 24 weeks. By 16 weeks, a baby can respond to sound, feel pain and is sensitive to light. Whilst psalm 39:13 springs to mind; ‘For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb’, I can’t help but feel like even without my faith this seems inhumane and unmerciful.

The talks at this year’s conference focused on the effects that abortion has on the mental health of women. I found this particularly interesting as I intend on studying psychology at university next year. On the NHS website it states, ‘women who have an abortion are no more likely to experience mental health problems than those who continue with their pregnancy.’ However I learnt from one of the speakers that medical research shows that the risk of suicide is around six times greater after abortion than after childbirth. Another thing that really struck me was the lack of information that women receive prior to the procedure and how little support they receive if they are ambivalent about such a fundamental decision in both their own and their unborn child’s life.

Whilst some of the talks were quite intense and some of the content was extremely upsetting and graphic, it was necessary given the sensitivity and seriousness of such an issue.

The evenings were much more light-hearted with a quiz on the first night with icebreakers to get to know people and a ceilidh on the Saturday which was good fun!

I really enjoyed my first conference and found it a really educational and thought-provoking experience. I have come away feeling proud to be pro-life and inspired by the amazing work other young people are doing to save lives and wanting to make a difference myself.

Hannah, 18, Castlerigg