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How rogue crisis pregnancy agencies have been operating outside the law here for more than a decade

The agencies are in the spotlight again after an investigation found an agency in Dublin giving abortion misinformation to women.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Photographee.eu

ROGUE CRISIS PREGNANCY agencies which give misinformation about abortion to women have been operating in Ireland for more than a decade without any regulation.

The agencies – which advertise as offering advice on all options available to pregnant women but which focus on anti-abortion information – are in the spotlight following an investigation into one clinic which was published today.

In a report for The Times (Ireland edition), reporters Ellen Coyne and Catherine Sanz secretly recorded a consultation in a clinic in Dublin’s north inner city between a staff member and a woman seeking advice on a crisis pregnancy. The staff member advised the woman that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer,  and told her that abortion can turn women into child abusers in later life.

The report found that the clinic’s website is one of the first addresses to be shown in a search for advice on how to access an abortion. The clinic claims that it offers impartial and objective advice on crisis pregnancies.

There have been repeated calls for more than a decade for statutory regulations for pregnancy advice and counselling services, but successive governments have failed to legislate.

Source: The Ireland edition of Times/YouTube

As part of an investigation for the Sunday Tribune newspaper in August 2007, a woman working at a rogue crisis pregnancy agency in Dublin told me at the time that abortions could not be carried out until a woman was eight weeks pregnant “because if they did it any earlier, there’s too much of a danger of leaving a part behind because it’s so small. You’d still be pregnant if they left a bit behind.”

What the clinic claimed

At the clinic, which was called the Women’s Resource Centre and located on Dorset Street, two minutes from O’Connell Street, the woman showed me a DVD of an American doctor displaying and describing all of the surgical instruments that are used to carry out abortions.

The woman had a list on the desk in front of her of all of the possible side-effects of abortion, telling me:

I’m not saying that all or any of these will apply to you, it’s just to inform you.

The risks included increased likelihood of breast cancer, miscarriage, sterility and child abuse, as well as an inability to be around children afterwards.

She said that other counsellors at the agency had seen “at least three” women who had needed colostomies after an abortion.

Towards the end of the 90-minute appointment, the woman took out a small plastic baby, roughly the length of a mobile phone, and used her pen to demonstrate on the toy what happened during a D&C (a procedure carried out to remove tissue from inside the uterus after a miscarriage or abortion).

This agency was in existence at that location under various names since at least the early 2000s. It advertised itself at the time as offering advice on ‘British’ options available for pregnant women, and repeatedly emphasised that it was focusing on ‘the truth around abortion’.

“Say if you had an abortion and you came back here to Ireland, you could find yourself faced with those pro-life people who you see on O’Connell Street,” the woman said. “They could show you fliers, with pictures on them. It’s better for you to see and know everything before you go.”

Pregnancy agencies are unregulated at the moment 

Choice Ireland, which campaigns for abortion rights in Ireland, said there is an “urgent need” for a system of regulation for crisis pregnancy agencies.

Currently the agencies do not need to register with state agencies or give any information on the type of advice they give to women undergoing crisis pregnancies.

“The clear aim of these organisations is to bully and manipulate vulnerable women into not seeking terminations,” said Stephanie Lord, a spokesperson for Choice Ireland.

They present themselves as providing objective and impartial information when nothing could be further from the truth.

“Women seeking abortion information during a time of crisis pregnancy are vulnerable enough without having to wade through misinformation too.”

Consultant obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan told RTE Radio One’s News at One programme that there was no increased risk of cancer among women who have had abortions, as the rogue crisis pregnancy agency had claimed, and nor were women who had abortions more likely to abuse their children.

“There is no regulation in Ireland around any of these [agencies],” he said.

“If women are looking for informed advice, the best place to go would be one of the family planning association clinics.”

Read: ‘I walked past people with signs about how I was a murderer’: Getting an abortion as a teenager > 

Read: British group launches helpline for women in Ireland who buy abortion pills online > 

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