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Agency rejects claims it uses anti-abortion scare tactics

By September 18, 2009News

Irish Examiner – September 19 2009

Staff at Ask Majella, a Limerick-based agency, told an undercover reporter who was posing as a client, that opting for abortion could leave a number of psychological and physical scars including:

  • Dreams of stabbing babies.
  • Consign her to a life of drugs, drink and crime.
  • Face judgment from her baby in the afterlife.
  • Perforate her uterus.
  • Die from taking the abortion pill.
  • Get breast cancer or bowel cancer and become infertile.

The reporter, who outlined her experience on yesterday's Today with Pat Kenny show on RT Radio 1, said the agency had not offered any abortion referral information despite her request for such assistance.

Rosie Toner, director of counselling for the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), said the experience the reporter underwent at Ask Majella was not new.

"We have women who come to us every day who tell us they have attended rogue agencies. You experience bullying, intimidation… It is really shocking that these agencies are unregulated by the State."

Ms Toner added that only agencies that provide abortion information are checked for compliance. The IFPA gave advice on all options, including abortion, and is regulated. Ms Toner said information offered by staff at Ask Majella, "had no scientific grounding", for example in relation to linking abortion to breast cancer.

However, the chairman of Ask Majella, Patrick McCrystal, said any medical or scientific information offered by staff to clients was "backed up" and that the agency had no problem in saying it had a Catholic ethos.

"The ethos of Ask Majella is that we are life affirming, if we are asked we have no problem saying we are a catholic ethos organisation, we have no problem in saying we do not refer for abortion, we live in a county that has a pro-life constitution," he said.

A statement from the Department of Health said: "There are no plans, at present, to regulate counselling services in this area."

A statement from the HSE said it does not have any role or powers in the regulation of pregnancy counselling agencies or services, "unless it received a complaint or specific allegation about a risk to the safety or welfare of pregnant minors attending services, or a risk to the safety or welfare of an infant."

The CPA runs a public awareness campaign to promote free, non-judgmental State-funded crisis pregnancy services. For more information, visit positiveoptions.ie.