Dr Reid, a former chairman of the Division of Medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and founding member of Birthline, described the organisation as a “noble enterprise” founded on the belief that “human life begins at conception and ends with natural death”.
Outlining the history of the organisation, he said it “all began” in 1969 when the SA Parliament passed by one vote legislation allowing abortion up to 28 weeks and a few months later the Right to Life (RTL) movement was formed. In 1972 the RTL decided it needed a social work arm to support distressed mothers and their unborn children, resulting in Birthline becoming the first of pregnancy support service in Australia.
In 2000, Birthline separated from RTL and a bequest from Desmond Coveney in 2002 enabled the organisation to buy its own premises on Magill Road, Kensington Park and introduce a material assistance program about 10 years ago.
“This has grown into the biggest such program for mothers and babies in Adelaide,” Dr Reid said. “For example this year Birthline has given free of charge 98 cots, 90 prams and almost 200 baby clothing bundles to needy people plus lots of other goods.”
He said he hoped for “a miracle to make the people of South Australia soften their hearts to the unborn”. “Until that happens, Birthline will be needed.”
Guest speaker Dr Elvis Seman, head of the Urogynaecology Unit at Flinders Medical Centre and fertility specialist, shared his journey to being a pro-life obstetrician and gynaecologist and spoke of his volunteer work with Mater Care to help the plight of African women to prevent maternal morbidity and mortality.
Another speaker, Marion Bowes-Johnston, shared her personal experience with Birthline. She first became aware of the organisation in early 1984 when her children’s college sent some literature home. Shortly after, her 16-year-old daughter and her 17-year-old boyfriend told her they were expecting a baby.
Having read the Birthline material, she resolved to “offer them my unequivocal support and assistance”.
Ms Bowes-Johnston paid tribute to Birthline counsellor Edna Harbort who counselled her daughter and her boyfriend and convinced them to come home and speak to their parents before they made a decision on their predicament.
“With the help of Birthline, my daughter, who was unable to continue her education at the college she attended, contacted St Joseph’s (now part of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College) and we arranged for her to continue her education there as a day student. The chaplain of her college called in to see her every week bringing her lessons for the week with him. So she was blessed to have both pastoral care and academic input as well.
“On June 14 1984, one day before my 38th birthday, my daughter gave birth to my precious granddaughter.
“She is now a striking redhead who has developed into the most gentle and caring young woman.”
When her granddaughter was just three months old, Ms Bowes-Johnston graduated as a telephone counsellor for Birthline and she went on to become a face-to-face counsellor.
To volunteer or make a donation, visit www.birthline.org.au