Brid demands action on rogue counselling services

Brid raised the issue of ROGUE CRISIS PREGNANCY in the Dáil today. These agencies which give misinformation about abortion, and tell frightening lies to vulnerable women have been operating in Ireland for more than 20 years without any regulation.
The agencies generally advertise as offering advice on all options available to pregnant women but in fact focus on anti-abortion mis-information. In doing so they are taking advantage of very vulnerable women to the point of abuse.
So we have reports of distressed women enquiring about abortion being shown surgical instruments and disturbing images of what are claimed to be aborted fetuses. The so-called ‘counsellors’ tell them, falsely, that abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer, miscarriage, sterility and child abuse, as well as an inability to be around children afterwards.
Effectively they subject these women to abuse and they do it with impunity. Such agencies do not need to register with state authorities or give any information on the type of advice they give to women undergoing crisis pregnancies. Health advisors like dieticians or opticians, must be regulated before they can offer any service to the public but those counselling women in vulnerable situations face no requirement to register or be regulated at all.
Ironically, counsellors who do give accurate information about abortion and how to go about getting one in the UK or elsewhere, fall under the current regulations regarding the giving of information – the 1995 legislation on abortion information . “So, if a rogue agency, which seeks to restrict access to abortion, provides women with information that is objectively factually untruthful, it can do so without breaking the 1995 Act,” This observation was made by none other than Simon Harris.
So you are regulated if you give accurate information about getting an abortion, but not if you give inaccurate information, however abusive or cruel you are in providing such inaccurate information. And so the rogue agencies can pop-up wherever they chose, they can abuse vulnerable women and they can get away with it.
Its part of the very disfunctional and cowardly way in which successive governements have failed women facing crisis pregnancies. This is because they want to avoid clashing with the conservative, Catholic elements in society that might cost them votes. And so, even when dealing with the ‘non-rogue’, or ‘official’ agencies, the State panders to conservatism at a cost to vulnerable women.
For instance the HSE, through its Crisis Pregnancy Programme, provides generous funding from the public purse to agencies like Cura and Anew (Anew formerly called Life). Cura have one of the most extensive networks of so-called ‘crisis pregnancy’ counselling services in the country, yet they will not provide women with information on abortion, only on adoption or parenting. And they get hundreds of thousands of Euros for this.
There have been repeated calls for more than a decade for statutory regulations for pregnancy advice and counselling services, but successive governments have failed to legislate.
Late last year the Labour party put forward a Bill to address concerns regarding rogue agencies by amending the Health and Social Care Professionals Act. A bit late in the day, but better late than never. Yet Simon Harris is resisting this. A spokepserson on his behalf stated “What appears to be a short and straightforward Bill poses significant policy, legal and practical difficulties for the operation and ongoing implementation of the 2005 Act and for the regulation of health and social care professions in general”.
This is more than a bit rich. Here’s a statement from the IFPA (Irish Family Planning Association) who have been helping women with fertility issues, including those seeking abortion for many decades.
“As an immediate step, the Government should draft regulations for all pregnancy advice and counselling services, establishing minimum and correct 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”
This statement was issued in 2006!! How long does it take before this government will move to protect vulnerable women and prosecute those who abuse them?