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My name is Angela Gorman, I’m a retired Senior Nurse from the National Health Service. I’m married, I have three children and four grandchildren and I now spend my time in retirement heading up a charity trying to save women’s lives in Africa.

The story, my story begins really in relation to abortion, in that it was always there in the background because I was raised as a very strict Roman Catholic, here in Cardiff, and abortion was something that the mere mention of the word caused people to shudder and react very negatively and sometimes angrily, it just was not something that was considered. And that’s how I grew up, I got married and had three children. My first thoughts about abortion were when I was having my third child, my oldest child, who’s now 46, had German measles. And I rang my mother to see if I’d had German measles and she said no, so I was panicking, and went to the doctor. My mother had told me that my brother had had German measles so the doctor assured me that if somebody in the house had it I was probably immune, and she took some blood and had to wait a week for the result. As it happened luckily I was immune but for that week it was like the worst week of my life having to consider what to do and having advice from all around me. Happily the outcome was that I was immune and my baby was born safely and healthily. And so there it continued. But during that pregnancy I became – I was contacted by an organisation called SPUC which is an organisation which is meant to prevent and persuade women not, to not have abortions. And at 20 weeks’ gestation I went to London on a march with the anti-abortion group, SPUC. And we walked through London in a silent march. And you know my views I suppose were pretty hard-nosed in that I was very much against abortion. So I gave birth to my baby safely and all was well raising the children.

Then I took on my nurse training in 1977 and in 1978 I was allocated to a gynaecology ward. And I was curious I suppose that I would be able to see this for myself. I wanted to see whether these horror stories that I was being told were actually true. It was quite daunting really because I didn't know what I was going to be seeing, but I knew abortions would be taking place on the ward. And in the course of that ten weeks that I was on the ward I met a woman who – she will never know, really, that she changed my life and my view on abortion, because at the end of a long period of speaking to her I came to the conclusion that in the situation that she was in that I probably would be doing the same thing as she was doing. Her husband had a very serious mental health condition. She already had two children and in her words, who’d been to hell and back. Her husband was severely schizophrenic and was in and out of hospital, had suicidal tendencies and when he was home and in the night if he got out of bed and went downstairs she had to follow him in case he got a knife out of the drawer and slashed his wrists. And her words to me were, “I can’t bring another child into this situation. My two other children have been to hell and back and I can’t do it again.” And to be fair she was less than ten weeks pregnant but she’d been referred quickly and I sat and held her hand and all the time thinking, until you walk in somebody else’s shoes you can’t judge their decisions, you can’t. And from that moment on I think I was changed, because I realised there how lucky I was to have three children, my three children, healthily, but that you have to be non-judgemental and often you only hear half the stories and we’re very quick to judge people and so I think it made me a better nurse really, in not judging patients and their decisions. It was clearly tearing her apart, and she said, “I can’t go through with the pregnancy and then give the baby up, but I can’t bring it into the hell that my other two children are living in at the moment.” And I was able to say to her, “I think, in your situation,” - I reassured her that I wasn’t judging her, I was listening to her and reassured her that “I think in your situation I think I would probably have done the same thing.” But it was life-changing and I don’t know where she is now, but that woman changed my life.

So I’m now – part of what I do now is I go to Africa to try and prevent women dying in pregnancy and childbirth. And tens of thousands of women in Africa and beyond, in developing countries, die every year because within their countries abortion is illegal, but despite it being illegal they still go and try and get abortion and it is killing women in tens of thousands every year that they can’t access safe and legal abortion services. And I’ve actually looked a woman in the eye whose life we’ve saved with the medication that we sent, who felt she had to go and get an abortion, she couldn’t face, with the poverty she was living in she couldn’t face bringing another child into the world and our medications actually saved her life and gave her back to her family. So even though it’s not, I’m not, politically active in this campaign, I’m always very quick to say to people who raise the subject, about my experience, about how we shouldn’t judge people who are making decisions that we may not agree with, but we don’t have to live with them either. And that, that every individual person making a difficult decision, lives with the consequences. And that we have to trust their judgement and respect their opinion. So it is a big problem, it’s an emotional problem, it’s an emotive problem, a dilemma that women have to face, but I’ve seen women dying in Africa who’ve gone and had an illegal abortion and by the time they get into a hospital it’s too late.

I’ve looked a woman in the eye whose life we’ve saved because she was able to access the medicines we sent, and I’ve also talked with this woman, many many years ago in 1978, who made that decision and changed my life. I hadn’t – other than my brush with it when I was pregnant with my younger son, it was always in the background, I never really had to face it again, but I was always very anti-abortion until that moment in 1978. So when I met the lady in the Wales Millennium Centre who had a stand near ours, I just thought I’d tell this little story about this woman who changed my life – and as a result of that, we’ve kept in touch by email, and that’s why I’ve been part of this project.

So I’m a retired senior neonatal nurse. I’m not a midwife, but I have a vast amount of midwifery knowledge, and I was able to recognise in 2005 when I saw a TV programme about maternal death, in Africa, that most of these women were dying because of poverty, they couldn’t access the medication they needed to save their lives, and I ended up helping to set up this organisation. I left my clinical job and now run this and go back and forth to Africa. The main activities we have are that we are sending medication to prevent women dying of post-partum haemorrhage, which kills 100,000 women every year, and most of them could be saved with medication which costs 50 pence. At the moment the pharmaceutical company manufacturing it is donating it to us, and we are shipping it out in vast amounts. In the last three years we’ve sent out 1.2 million tablets of this drug called misoprostol, and that represents about 400,000 women having access to it, which is given as soon as the baby is born, and it helps to prevent the women haemorrhaging to death.
In their countries they would have to pay for it, and I’ve seen it priced at 10 dollars a tablet in some countries. And actually the cost of manufacturing it is about 17 pence. So we also send midwives out to help with training needs, but our key activity is sending the medication out to prevent them dying in birth. We’re sending it to seven countries at the moment in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately our core funder has pulled their funding, so we are at risk at the moment of not being able to continue doing this. They pulled because of Brexit and they’re making redundancies in this country. So we are at risk, so we’re in a strange situation where the people supplying the medications are going to give us as much as we want and need, and yet we may not be able to continue functioning because we don’t have the ability to keep going as a little organisation. We’re called Life for African Mothers, and we are very small, we’re 1.5 people, based here in Cardiff. I’m the one, and I have two people doing ten hours a week but they actually do more than that, funded by this company which is now withdrawing, so it – the whole project is at risk, and more worryingly, the women who get the medication at the moment are at risk because we are reliably informed that there is no other organisation doing what we’re doing, the manufacturer are not giving this medication to any other organisation in the world. So we are unique, and the prospect of us not being able to continue doing this is really keeping me awake at night. It’s very worrying, but I’m hoping that somebody will step in, and help us out. Not with a - it doesn’t need a great deal of money to function, we’ve got a postage stamp of an office in Penarth Road, and volunteers who help out. So if anybody’s listening who’d like to help us save women’s lives, and babies, we save babies’ lives as well, with good training, resuscitation skills, and of course by saving the mothers, we’re saving the babies as well. If anybody is listening out there that would like to help us out, our charity name is Life for African Mothers, and that’s the name of our website as well. So if you’d like to have a look and see what we do. We’re very small but very effective. Thank you.

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