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Simon Harris 'sickened' by misinformation given to women at crisis pregnancy clinic

The health minister said women need “accurate information in relation to their own health”.

31/8/2016. Special Cabinet Meetings Over Apple Debates Simon Harris Source: Leah Farrell

Updated 12.37pm

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said he is “extraordinarily concerned” and “sickened” by undercover filming that showed a woman in a crisis pregnancy clinic in Dublin giving misinformation about abortion.

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 that women who have had abortions are “known to neglect their children”.

Source: The Ireland edition of Times/YouTube

Speaking to RTÉ News, Harris said the reports were “very alarming, very worrying”.

I’ve asked for an urgent update on this. I will consider every possible policy option available to me to make sure that women are presented with factual, accurate information in relation to their own health.

Rogue pregnancy agencies have been operating in Ireland for over a decade without any regulation. There have been repeated calls for statutory regulations for pregnancy advice and counselling services, but successive governments have failed to legislate.

Speaking to reporters today, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, who previously served as Health Minister, said the Government is currently looking into the issue of regulation.

It’s very important that all counselling and psychotherapy be regulated. It’s not just about abortion clinics, it’s about all forms of counselling. As things stand, almost anyone can say that they are a counsellor.

“They could have done a night course or a weekend course and put up a brass plate to say that they are a counsellor and that’s why it’s important that that profession be regulated.

“There is a whole process underway in Government to regulate what they call the allied healthcare professionals … I think it’s important that that be done as soon as it can be done. I know Minister Harris wants to do that,” he said.

‘Entirely untrue’ 

Chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr Peter Boylan told RTÉ News there is no evidence to suggest abortion makes women more likely to abuse their children, nor does it increase their risk of developing breast cancer.

Doctors for Choice, a group that wants the Eighth Amendment to be repealed, said the “information” being given to the woman in the video is “entirely untrue and dangerous”.

“[Women] deserve evidence-based, unbiased information provided in a setting where basic first principles regarding counselling apply – where there is no agenda regarding the decisions they reach and the advice is non-directive.”

In a statement to RTÉ, Pro-Life Campaign spokesperson Cora Sherlock said: “It goes without saying that women facing an unexpected pregnancy should at all times be given accurate and precise information.”

However, she criticised the Government for commenting on this, saying they showed “no such interest” when counsellors from the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) were filmed “telling women to lie to their doctors and say they had a miscarriage if physical complications arose following their abortion”.

- with reporting by Christine Bohan

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

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

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Órla Ryan

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