Further alarming evidence has emerged this month about the tactics used by anti-choice groups claiming to provide counselling to women facing unplanned pregnancy.
The Crisis Pregnancy Programme run by the Health Services Executive in the Republic of Ireland has received 67 complaints over a nine month period about agencies trying to influence women’s decisions about their pregnancies.
Several women who approached these agencies for advice on their options reported feeling distressed by the counselling techniques used. State-funded pregnancy counselling services are now warning women to avoid ‘unreliable’ counselling services and have called on the Irish government to step in and regulate their activities.
A report released by the Irish Family Planning Association claims that ‘rogue’ agencies, listed under ‘family planning’ in telephone directories, use pro-choice language and advertise in a manner designed to attract women who may be considering abortion, when in reality they have an anti-abortion ethos.
Alison Begas, Chief Executive of the Well Woman Centre, which provides non-directive pregnancy counselling, is also critical of the methods used by these organisations:
“From what we hear, women are subjected to the most extraordinary tactics.
“We have heard stories of counselling sessions lasting three to four hours, the use of lurid US-produced videos and disturbing images.
“None of these tactics has any place in responsible pregnancy counselling. The problem is that most women don’t know where to go for advice until they actually need it.”
Rogue organisations are routinely providing inaccurate and misleading medical information to women seeking counselling. Spurious claims made include that having an abortion will often result in women needing a hysterectomy, developing cervical cancer, becoming infertile, promiscuous or frigid, and that their risk of developing breast cancer will double
None of these assertions is supported by any medical evidence.
The Irish Health Services Executive advises women to visit the Positive Options website for a list of free, state-funded crisis pregnancy services, and recommends that women visit a non-directive organisation, but currently has no plans for a regulatory licensing system for the sector.