CHANGES for women - an initiative for women with an unwanted pregnancy
An unwanted pregnancy can affect any woman - but not all of these women have the opportunity for an abortion. Anna Maria Lampert talks about the hurdles of a woman who wants to end her pregnancy and about the work of the organization CHANGES for Women.
Mrs J. has just turned 30, she lives with her husband in a small village near Salzburg. Mrs. J. works as a saleswoman in a shoe shop, she has two children. Both of them are brought to and picked up from kindergarten by Mrs. J. every day. To make this possible, Mrs. J. has reduced her working hours. Her husband, Mr. J. works from early morning to late at a restaurant in Salzburg. In the last few years, he was on short-time work because the restaurant had to close temporarily due to the pandemic. For a few months now, things have finally been looking up for Mr. J. Together they earn just enough to make ends meet with their two children. They do not want a third child, which is why Mrs J. had an IUD inserted. Nevertheless, Mrs J. becomes pregnant again shortly after her 30th birthday. When her periods stop, she is not worried because pregnancy is very unlikely with the IUD. In the second month she goes to her gynecologist, who detects the pregnancy. Mrs J. decides to have an abortion because she and her husband can hardly afford a third child, on top of which Mrs J. has applied for an apprenticeship which she wants to complete (as soon as the children are at school). She contacts several clinics in Salzburg, but no abortions are performed anywhere nearby. When she searches the internet for other clinics, she learns that the only option she has is to travel to Vienna for the abortion.
She does not know what to do. The costs of the abortion are not covered by the health insurance and she does not have the 400-500 euros for the procedure right now. In addition, she would have to organise childcare for her children, as her husband does not get a day off at the restaurant. She would also have to pay for the train journey out of her own pocket. After further searching, she finds the telephone number of a clinic and describes her situation. The staff member at the clinic points her to CHANGES for Women. She learns from the organisation that there is a clinic in Salzburg that performs abortions and she contacts them immediately. But the appointment for Mrs J. fails due to bureaucracy. In the meantime, she is also under time pressure: in order for her to have an abortion without penalty, it has to be carried out within the first three months. She also learns from CHANGES for Women that abortions in Austria are regulated by the penal code; they are only "exempt from punishment" during the first three months. So she cannot wait longer and decides to travel to Vienna for the procedure. Her travel costs and the costs of the abortion are covered by CHANGES for Women - the clinic already knows the confirmation filled out by CHANGES for Women, which Mrs. J. hands over to the doctor. This brings Mrs J.'s story to an end. She is relieved that she will still have enough time for her two children.
This story of Mrs. J. applies to many women - says Anna Maria Lampert, social worker, and member of the organisation CHANGES for Women. Most of the women who visit CHANGES for Women already have children and are between 25-40 years old. If they do not live in Vienna, and they have hardly any chance to terminate an unwanted pregnancy free of charge - as a result, they end up in financial hardship and are often dependent on other family members, partners or ex-partners. CHANGES for Women wants to change that.
Many women open up about their difficult situation for the first time when they call CHANGES for Women - for Anna Maria Lampert, each of these phone calls is a moment of success. The women meet with understanding and they can reveal as much about their personal story as they feel like. No one has to justify themselves at CHANGES for Women, all information remains anonymous. Most of the time, members of the organisation do not know what happens to the women after their abortion. But they often get a relieved message. When they read, "Thank you, I finally have my life back", they know that their work contributes to the fact that it is not strokes of fate, but conscious decisions that determine the lives of women.
The CHANGES for Women project was awarded a SozialMarie prize in 2022.
City of Vienna: https://www.changes-for-women.org/admin/uploads/Meine-Entscheidung_-Schwangerschaftsabbruch-in-Wien_2021_1616516561.pdf
Further information about CHANGES for Women: https://www.changes-for-women.org/#41