Undercover researchers who posed as pregnant women received unreliable and misleading advice from pregnancy counselling centres operated by Christian and anti-abortion groups, according to an investigation carried out by pro-choice charity Education for Choice and reported in The Guardian on Wednesday (03.08.11). The quality of advice given by each of the ten centres surveyed varied from acceptable to outright scare-mongering. In one centre, Skylight Counselling, a Care Confidential affiliate in Coventry, the researcher was given material linking abortion to breast cancer and infertility, and was warned about "post-traumatic stress", should she choose to have a termination. Material provided at a centre run by anti-choice group ‘Life’ in Covent Garden, London, stated that during vacuum aspiriation terminations "the unborn child is sucked down the tube" and that "the woman should wear some protection. She has to dispose of the corpse." A ‘Life’ counsellor also told a researcher over the phone that she could not name any abortion providers and was not qualified to discuss the physical aspects of abortion. Of ten centres surveyed, only two were found to have provided good quality information or support. The evidence of bad practice and misleading advice provided by anti-choice pregnancy counselling centres, comes as the Department of Health is considering proposals from MPs Nadine Dorries and Frank Field to allow such organisations to receive public funding to provide pre-abortion counselling. Education for Choice's director Lisa Hallgarten said:
"We strongly urge the Department of Health to think carefully about removing women from the professional decision-making support currently offered by abortion providers while the current alternative is a network of unregulated individuals, many of whom are in breach of good practice."
The survey's findings are less than surprising to pro-choice campaigners. Darinka Aleksic of Abortion Rights commented:
“This report confirms what we have been hearing from women for a long time: anti-choice organisations are willing to mislead and misinform women in order to dissuade them from considering abortion.
"Women have a right to impartial and non-directive support when considering abortion. Anti-choice organisations cannot be trusted to provide this."
Read a summary of Education for Choice's report here