In late 2014 I was 21, a new graduate, pregnant and terrified. This pregnancy couldn’t have come at a worse time! What was I going to do? Do I keep this baby? How was I going to tell the father? What about my own parents? Unbeknownst to me this pregnancy was the start of the most life changing event of my life.
Whilst I’m pro-choice and I’d told myself that if I ever found myself in the predicament, abortion was always going to be the solution, I changed my mind. Circumstances had changed. I’d just watched my cousin lose her child and wondered what kind of person would that make me if I have an abortion? I was hoping the father would understand my reasons for my indecisiveness but that wasn’t the case.
I understood his concerns and reservations about me keeping the baby, we were never in a relationship (let’s just say it was a friend with benefits situation), we were young and had our whole lives to live. I would always question myself, was it the right decision to keep the baby? He knew I was now vulnerable, the pregnancy hormones changed me, and in his eyes, I was now weak. From that moment he took full advantage and became increasingly emotionally abusive – using manipulation to try and coheres me into having an abortion.
After a month, he dismissed me with his last words being: “I want nothing to do with that baby, you do know it’s not cool to be a baby mum.”
A weight was lifted from my chest, I was finally free from the abuse, now I could focus on my baby and my future.
Seven months went by, no phone calls, no messages, nothing.
An incident occured when I had a conversation with a mutual friend, as we were in similar circumstances. He kept pressuring me to tell him who the father of my child was, so eventually I told him. The father then called me less than 5 minutes later hurling abuse at me calling me every kind of “whore.” Amongst the exchanged abuse I simply told him, “I’m telling your mum” and true to my word I headed to his house and told his mum. The conversation was amicable she took down my number, but I never heard back from her. A month later her son was waiting for me with an accomplice and violently attacked me downstairs from my flat – by this time I was well into my eighth month pregnancy.
The next day I found myself in hospital, my son had died. Joel had suffocated in my stomach. It is formally known as a placental abruption. This is when the placenta separates from the uterus as a result of the repeated kicking and stamping. He’d finally got what he wanted, the baby was gone. The choice to continue with my pregnancy had been taken from me – Joel was the foundation that I had adapted my entire life’s purpose around. It felt like if he was no longer alive what was my purpose?
The trauma consumed my life, I thought about it every single minute of the day, I sunk in a deep depression using alcohol to suppress the grief, sorrow and anger that I had raging inside of me. The two men were arrested and convicted of “Child destruction” and GBH with intent. The “father” originally received a maximum sentence of 32 years, 16 years minimum and a life sentence. He later appealed the sentence and was rewarded with two years off. Whereas, the accomplice received a 14-year sentence which 10 years in served and 4 years on licence.
Spending months alone gave me a lot of time to reflect and conduct research. I’d discovered that I wasn’t the first woman to have experienced violence from a perpetrator who had the intention of ending a pregnancy. How was this issue not ever highlighted in the media? Even though my story gained a lot of media attention, prior to me I’d only ever heard whispers that guys had done this before. Now, I had finally found articles of similar stories.
I had discovered that there was an inconsistency when it came to prosecuting perpetrators of the crime, and those had who had secured convictions, and the sentences didn’t reflect of the seriousness of the crime. I also found that life sentences were only given to perpetrators when both mother and baby had both died.
A year later, a lady by the name of Natalie Queiroz who was eight months pregnant was stabbed multiple times by her ex-partner. The perpetrator was handed an 18-year sentence for attempted murder, attempted child destruction and for wounding the passer-by who tried to help her. Fortunately, both she and her baby survived – that’s when it dawned on me that the law is unsupportive when it comes to protecting pregnant mothers.
The Child destruction legislation was created in 1929 to tackle back street abortion as part of the Infant Life Prevention act.
- The Child Destruction legislation can only be used if prosecutors can prove that there was an “intention to harm a baby who is capable of being born alive.”
- At the time when the legislation was introduced the government deemed that 28 weeks when a baby was able to be born live.
In 1967, abortion was legalised, and women had the right to legally terminate their pregnancies. Yet, the Child Destruction law still remains. Due to the complexities of the law it is hard to convict someone of child destruction, as in some cases recklessness is the result of a baby dying in the women.
Such is the case of Jessy Johnson, she was kicked by her ex-partner 5 days away from her due date. Unfortunately for Jessy, the baby girl died and the child destruction charge was dropped as her ex was intoxicated so the matter of intent automatically was dismissed. He pleads guilty to assault charges and was sentenced to 2 years and 9 months. Had recklessness been included in the CD legislation he would’ve been convicted of the crime.
Mother’s Day 2018, I released a video as part of my campaign to raise awareness of violence used towards pregnant mothers. In addition, I launched a petition to review the outdated “Child destruction” legislation. The aims of the petition are:
- For the government to review the aspect of intent and include recklessness in the legislation.
- To re-evaluate when they deem a baby to be capable of surviving independently.
Ultimately, what I would like the public to understand that violence during any stage of pregnancy is wrong. There is a lack of awareness of the risks associated with using violence to terminate a pregnancy – as well as the physical, physiological, and emotional impact that this has on a victim’s life.
Since launching the petition, I’ve received an overwhelming amount of support and subsequently gained over 4,000 signatures so far. Numerous women have reached to me and have informed me of their similar experiences. Surprisingly, I’ve been contacted by men who have expressed their concerns, as they’ve had conversations amongst friends, where men have admitted to knowing of somebody who has committed the crime but has never been convicted.
On 8th March 2018, the government released a consultation page where civilians will be able to submit their recommendations as part of the revised domestic violence bill. With the support of my MP’s, Neil Coyle and Harriet Harman, and the charity Women’s Aid we will be submitting our recommendations alongside the petition, to protect pregnant mothers and their unborn babies from harm.
Written by Malorie Bantala