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HSE warning over 'my options' unplanned pregnancy websites with anti-abortion message

The HSE’s official site My Options serves as a first point of contact for women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Image: Shutterstock/fizkes

THE HSE SAYS it is aware of a number of websites and advertisements appearing in online search results for unplanned pregnancy support that have a similar name to its official site. 

One website that TheJournal.ie visited has a similar name to the official HSE ‘My Options’ site. 

The HSE has recommended that women searching for support for an unplanned pregnancy visit only a recognised or HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy counselling agency.

‘Hidden agenda’

The Health Service Executive also advised people that a number of unplanned pregnancy agencies “may have a hidden agenda”.

“We are aware of a number of websites and ads that are appearing in search results and social media that claim to be providing unplanned pregnancy support services under variations of the myoptions name,” a spokesperson said. 

“Some unreliable agencies may not be upfront about their intentions and may try to influence a person’s decision,” it warned.

MyOptions.ie is part of the HSE website, and the official myoptions helpline is 1800 828 010 for unplanned pregnancy information and support.

The warnings come after a search for ‘my options’ online revealed a website, ads and Google listings with a phone number and address for an unplanned pregnancy agency not related to the HSE, but with a similar name to My Options.

My Options was launched by the HSE this week. It is its new free unplanned pregnancy support service which serves as a first point of contact for women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.  

The service offers counselling and and information for those dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Information on continued pregnancy supports and abortion options are offered.

Abortion is now legal for a variety of reasons in Ireland, following the Eighth Amendment vote and legislation passing through the Dáil last year. 

As part of the service, the HSE launched a new website – myoptions.ie - for women to visit for information on supports and services. 

Different site 

However, when you put the term “My Options” into a Google search in Ireland today, the address, phone number and website given in the Google listings is for a different entity to the HSE site.

The non-HSE website (which includes the words My Options in the title) contains an Irish mobile phone number and tells people to contact to book a free ultrasound “if you are thinking about termination and need to know how far pregnant you are”.

The website is poorly designed, with minimal text in areas or placeholder texts in certain sections. It also links to a YouTube video claiming to expose a cancer cover-up conspiracy with regards to abortion.

The address listed on Google this morning connected to this other site was for a premises in north Dublin close to the city centre that has previously been the subject of much controversy. 

Back in 2016, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the building after footage from an undercover report was published in The Times (Ireland edition). Reporters Ellen Coyne and Catherine Sanz secretly recorded a consultation in this clinic between a staff member and a woman seeking advice on a crisis pregnancy.

The Google listed address has since changed to a different address on Capel Street. However, the number and website still take people to the unofficial ‘Options’ website. 

This non-HSE website is also currently running paid ads on Google when the search term “My Options Abortion” is entered. 

Ads

TheJournal.ie contacted the number connected to the non-HSE website and a man with an Irish accent answered the phone. 

When questioned over whether the service was the HSE My Options service, the man said, “I think you have the wrong number”. When further pressed on whether abortion or ultrasound of unplanned pregnancy services were provided, the man said:

“Do you have a friend who is pregnant?” 

He repeated this a number of times before saying, “you have all the information you need on the website”, and hanging up.

He did not provide any further information, did not give his name and did not respond to further requests for comment. 

Clarification 

The HSE released a statement this afternoon after it was made aware of the similar website and misleading information online. 

“The HSE recommends that people should only visit a recognised or HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy counselling agency. If people are looking at information online, look for the HSE logo,” a spokesperson said.

It also gave a list of signs that an agency or counselling service may not be reputable:

  • They may require you to wait a long time between appointments
  • They may only meet you in public places such as hotels or car park
  • There are delays in giving you pregnancy test results – these should be given immediately
  • Their leaflets or information do not give information about all your options or uses language that is very negative or frightening
  • They may show inappropriate images, videos or DVDs as part of a counselling session, which are designed to influence a woman’s decision. 

“You can get information about reputable HSE funded unplanned pregnancy counselling services on myoptions.ie or by phoning 1800 828 010,” the spokesperson said.

The official HSE My Options website is available at myoptions.ie

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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