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Crisis pregnancy services will not face charges over abortion advice

The HSE has now clarified what advice should be given around abortion pills.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

THERE WILL BE no charges brought against any crisis pregnancy counselling services over alleged malpractice, the HSE has said today.

Gardaí carried out an investigation in a number of services, including the Irish Family Planning Association, following an article in the Irish Independent in October 2012. Investigators furnished a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions which has now decided not to bring the case any further.

It is understood no wrongdoing was found at any of the centres.

A HSE audit of State-funded crisis pregnancy counselling services – including the Irish Family Planning Association, Here2Help, Life Pregnancy Care and the Sexual Health Centre – was also undertaken following the newspaper exposé but the publication of its report was delayed until today because of the garda investigation.

The investigation stemmed from allegations that breaches in law relating to advice given occurred at a number of counselling services. The reporter cited transcripts of sessions between counsellors and a group of women posing as genuine clients. They secretly recorded the sessions and passed the information to a journalist.

The subsequent article alleged that counsellors provided inappropriate information on accessing the abortion pill and inappropriate advice that women did not have to reveal they had an abortion to a medical professional if they needed assistance after the termination.

The audit, which took place between January and June last year, involved site visits to six services, four of which had allegations made against them.

The auditors recommended that policies and guidelines should be written up on quality assurance, supervision and the Abortion Information Act by those which did not already have them.

They also found that the policies in place in some centres did not adequately address the issues of disclosing a termination and accessing abortion pills through online sources.

According to the HSE, work on these new policies and guidelines has been completed.

Specifically, the HSE has provided guidance to counselling services stating that a woman should always be encouraged to reveal her full pregnancy history including natural miscarriages and abortions to a health professional as not to do so could result in misdiagnoses and subsequent problems.

In relation to the availability of the abortion pill, the HSE has clarified, through training workshops with counsellors that if a client brings up the subject of the abortion pill, the counsellor should clarify that it is illegal to purchase medicines online.

The HSE also told services that women should also be advised that it is unsafe to take the abortion pill without medical supervision while also ensuring that if women who take the pill experience complications they should not be afraid to get medical help.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie today, IFPA chief Niall Behan said, “The IFPA welcomes the publishing of the HSE audit report. Our position on this issue has been consistent since the outset.

“The IFPA provides a professional and high quality counselling service under protocols that take into account all legislative requirements. Our counsellors are trained and accredited professionals with a deep commitment to their clients. Last year, they delivered counselling to over 3,700 women, girls and couples.

The HSE audit report and the DPP’s finding of no wrongdoing “whatsoever” in relation to the clandestine recordings of pregnancy counsellors at work vindicates our services.

He claimed that a number of pro-life groups have attempted to “discredit” the association’s work, adding, “While the IFPA cooperated fully with the audit, allegations and covert actions of this type are damaging to women’s health as they affect confidence in services which provide unbiased and non-directive pregnancy counselling.”

Read: Ireland is NOT one of the safest places on the planet to have a baby

See: Pro-choice group put banner advertising abortion pills on Galway Cathedral

Related: Activists take train to Belfast to get abortion pills – and say they plan to take them 

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