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Activist says scans are being offered with 'top-of-the-range' ultrasound machine at Dublin building

Eamonn Murphy, a veteran anti-abortion activist, displayed the machine at the Berkeley Street centre.

AN ANTI-ABORTION activist who was recently ordered by the High Court to stop operating a website with a name similar to the HSE’s official crisis pregnancy service is claiming to offer ultrasound services from a building on the northside of Dublin city. 

Eamonn Murphy, who runs an unregulated crisis pregnancy centre at 9 Berkeley Street in Dublin 7, displayed what he described as a “top-of-the-range” ultrasound machine to a small group of reporters yesterday, after arranging a press conference to talk about his court case. 

It emerged in recent weeks that anti-abortion activists had been trying to trying to trick GPs into referring women in crisis pregnancies to the unofficial centre for free ultrasound scans. t

A letter, giving the same Dublin 7 address, was sent to GPs suggesting doctors could face legal action for “assaulting” women unless they had recorded evidence that they had consented to an abortion.

The letter, first reported by The Times (Ireland Edition), offered doctors free ultrasounds for the first quarter of the year “for any pregnant woman you refer to us”. 

Murphy said in an interview with TheJournal.ie earlier this month that his centre had a working ultrasound machine at 9 Berkeley Street, and that that was where the scans took place. 

Several attempts to arrange a viewing of the machine were rearranged or postponed by Murphy in the intervening period. 

However, he spent several minutes explaining how the equipment worked while speaking to reporters yesterday. 

He said he did not operate the machine himself but that scans were performed by “the people who are trained to operate it”. 

He would not give any more details other than to say the operators were “qualified according to the law of Ireland”. 

Sequence 010 Source: Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie

TheJournal.ie was unable to authenticate whether the machine was genuine – but Murphy insisted that it was, and had cost “ten grand”. He declined to answer any further questions on the topic. 

Murphy told the High Court earlier this month that his business had been operating since 1995 as the Women’s Counselling Network, also known as the Good Counsel Network, to assist women who believed they had no choice when they became pregnant.

He was also involved with the running of an unregulated clinic called the Women’s Resource Centre located on nearby Dorset Street.

Pro-choice activists familiar with the clinics said volunteers linked with them had often mentioned ultrasound services in the past, but that they had never seen a machine. 

‘Not surprised’

Dr Brendan O’Shea, adjunct assistant professor of public health and primary care at Trinity College Dublin, said he was “not surprised that there are agencies attempting to operate outside the main strand of care provided by the State”. 

He said women who found themselves in crisis situations should seek help via the official HSE My Options website and phone line

“There have always been ‘rogue’ agencies out there, and the important and practical thing to do is to ensure that people, particularly vulnerable ones, are fully aware of the main care pathway should they find themselves in a crisis pregnancy.” 

Asked about Murphy’s comment that his machine had cost €10,000, O’Shea said doctors could now purchase “a very decent ultrasound machine for around €12,000 to €15,000 that will work in the primary care setting”.

O’Shea also said the machine displayed by Murphy did look genuine, adding: “The machine is only one part of the service. The training is at least as important, as is the ethically appropriate use of any information obtained when performing a scan.”
You need the machine, a trained individual to scan, and confirmation that correct decision-making is undertaken at all times.

Marion Dyer, a Dublin-based GP who campaigned for the Eighth Amendment to be repealed, said that ultrasounds weren’t routinely needed in cases of early medical abortion, but there are some exceptions.

“If a woman is unsure of her dates, or perhaps has a very irregular cycle, then an ultrasound may be required,” she said.

In those cases, doctors providing the abortion would have to be sure they were acting within the law, which allows for abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks.

Regarding ultrasounds apparently being offered by groups who are attempting influence women’s decisions she said: “Women in crisis pregnancy need non-directive healthcare.

If you have an agenda, and you’re trying to manipulate a woman towards your preferred outcome, it’s not ethical, and that should not be happening.

O’Shea said the outcome could be “very dangerous” if the machine was being operated by unqualified people. “You could miss an ectopic [pregnancy], which is a life-threatening condition.”

He said the area was heavily regulated and standardised in terms of the training a doctor needed. 

Regarding the letter being sent to GPs offering ultrasound services at Murphy’s Dublin 7 location Dyer said: 

If their intent is to manipulate somebody, you can’t be absolutely certain it won’t succeed. Any attempt to deceive patients, is ethically wrong. If you’re not doing something wrong, you don’t have to be deceitful about it. More than 250 GP providers are doing  everything they can to provide a safe service. It’s important to emphasise that women should only go through the official My Options helpline.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the HSE said that services offered at Murphy’s clinic are “not part of the public health service delivered by the HSE”.

“However, we would advise anyone availing of any health related services to ensure that they are conducted by appropriately trained personnel who are registered with the relevant regulatory body,” the spokesperson added.

Court case  

Murphy last week told the High Court that he had registered the domain name www.myoptions.website on 8 December, and said his unregulated crisis pregnancy service has been in operation for more than 20 years under different names.

The website, offering counselling and ultrasounds to women experiencing crisis pregnancies, was registered after the Minister for Health announced the name of the HSE’s crisis pregnancy service www.myoptions.ie.

The HSE service went live in December following the passage of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, and its freephone service commenced in January.

The High Court heard that “legitimate confusion” had since emerged among women seeking to avail of the HSE service as a result of the name of Murphy’s website.

The judge said that despite the range of other names Murphy had used for his business over 20 years, there was now a legal issue over whether he could operate his website under the ‘My Options’ name.

She said that it was “quite clear” that Murphy only used the My Options name when the HSE announced the use of the ‘My Options’ name last December, and that there was now a “very genuine urgency” to deal with the matter.

She also mentioned media reports regarding an individual who had sought to use the HSE’s service, but became unsure when she also came across Murphy’s website.

In response, Murphy announced his intention to countersue the HSE over the use of the name, claiming that its ‘My Options’ website was “fake in its intentions” and “recklessly endangering” women in a way that could lead to loss of life.

The judge told him to immediately take steps to desist from using the ‘My Options’ name on any crisis pregnancy websites he operated, until the matter could be heard again on 1 March. 

Murphy reiterated his intention to countersue the HSE while speaking to reporters yesterday and repeated claims made in court that “thousands of women and babies are alive as a result of our operations over the last 20 years”. 

Comments are closed as the article references a case before the courts

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy & Sean Murray

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