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Exposé of Bogus Pregnancy Counselling Services Demands a Response

By July 17, 2006News

Release date: 18 July 2006

The Irish Family Planning Association has warned women seeking pregnancy counselling services to access services that are promoted by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA).

Women seeking information on all options – including adoption, abortion and parenting – should contact the three-option counselling services that are posted on the CPA’s Positive Options web-site www.positiveoptions.ie

The warning was issued after a Dublin-based radio station broadcast a report from bogus counselling services, which employed coercive and manipulative techniques to promote their anti-abortion stance.

According to IFPA’s Director of Counselling Services, Rosie Toner, “in recent days, the media has played an important role in highlighting the practices of bogus counselling services. However, the IFPA has been constantly aware of these services and the destructive impact they can have on women in a crisis pregnancy situation. For over a decade, we have been calling for regulation of pregnancy counselling services, so that these bogus services are not allowed to operate.”

Last week the IFPA submitted written testimonies from women who had recent experience of bogus counselling services to the Health Services Executive and the CPA.

“Today’s audio recordings from a bogus service that were broadcast by Newstalk, demonstrate very clearly the kind of manipulative tactics these ‘services’ employ: scaring women into believing that abortion is linked with breast cancer; showing women plastic foetuses at different stages of development and creating a fear that they may not be able to have a baby in the future if they have an abortion were just some of the tactics exposed in the report.

“On an almost weekly basis, the IFPA deals with clients at its non-directive pregnancy counselling who have experienced these bogus services. Now that the evidence of these services is available for all of our policy makers and state agencies to hear for themselves, it is time for action.

“As an immediate step, the Government should draft regulations for all pregnancy advice and counselling services, establishing minimum and incorrect advice. As it stands, the only pregnancy advice and counselling services that fall under legislation are those non-directive agencies – such as the IFPA – which offer information on abortion. Those outside the 1995 Information Act have free reign and can terrorise women without any consequence.

“It is also a responsibility of Government to investigate if theses agencies are compliant organisations with a legal status, and if they are, some questions must surely hang over their modus operands.

“The Crisis Pregnancy Agency also has a role to progress the regulation of pregnancy counselling services. The Agency should recommend how best the sector should be regulated, and use the first-hand reports and recommendations from agencies such as the IFPA to inform their work. The IFPA also looks forward to the CPA’s work in training and establishing standards for all counsellors in the agencies that it funds.

“Questions also must be asked of the Golden Pages. This is the main advertising outlet for bogus counselling services and, quite clearly, these agencies do not operate in a way that their ads suggest. In fact, the Golden Pages prohibits the IFPA from specifically stating that it provides information on abortion in addition to information on adoption and parenting. It would be useful to know if Golden Pages impose any restrictions on bogus services when it comes to their advertising content,” said Rosie Toner.