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Ex-Jehova's Witness launches help website
A mother who says she was forced to refuse a lifesaving blood transfusion while giving birth to twins has lifted the lid on life as a Jehovah's Witness.
Rachel Underhill and her daughters Kira and Zoe survived to tell the tale - and left the faith a few years later.
The 32-year-old is now dedicating herself to helping former members of the religion and has launched a website to provide support to ex-Witnesses.
Seven years ago Rachel's case made headlines in The Argus when she rejected a blood transfusion during a caesarean section.
Rachel, of Telscombe Cliffs, has revealed the decision was taken out of her hands by the dictates of the Jehovah's Witness hospital liaison committee.
She said: "I was basically told in no uncertain terms that I could not have the transfusion. It was so scary.
I was terrified they would let my babies die."
Rachel's parents had been converted at the doorstep when she was aged three.
She went on to marry David, a fellow member, but doubts had begun to set in.
She said: "My sister got pregnant at 16 and was ignored by the church at the one time she needed support.
I just didn't want myself or my children near these hypocritical people."
In 2004, Rachel eventually faked having an affair with an old friend, knowing she would be driven out of the religion.
She said: "Looking back to that day, I know I did the right thing. Mine and my children's lives are so much better and happier."
A year after leaving the religion Rachel fell in love with Gerry D'Ambrosio - and they are now engaged.
There are about 125,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Britain and more than six million worldwide, including tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and musicians Prince and Hank Marvin.
Followers accept medical and surgical treatment but believe blood transfusion is forbidden in the Bible.
Rachel added: "I decided to start this website to help people who have either experienced or who are experiencing the same things."
Paul Gillies, spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses, said: "The hospital liaison committee is there to help.
"Jehovah's Witnesses who choose not to have a blood transfusion have to sign to prove they do not want one and the committee is only there for support.
"It would never force someone into refusing a blood transfusion."
Rachel's website is at www.exjw-reunited.co.uk