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'Pop-up' agencies may be outlawed

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Labour leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Frank McGrath

Labour leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Frank McGrath

Labour leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Frank McGrath

'Pop-up' crisis pregnancy counselling agencies have been operating on and off for more than a decade, giving "grotesque mistruths" to women by saying abortion causes breast cancer, an Oireachtas committee was told.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who has proposed legislation to try to outlaw these agencies, said their "lies and deceit" also include saying that women who have had abortions will later abuse and neglect their children.

The approach of Health Minister Simon Harris is to "designate counsellors generally, rather than trying to single out pregnancy counsellors".

He told the Oireachtas Health Committee: "I don't oppose that approach."

Department of Health officials said it is difficult to capture the rogue agencies because they are currently opening up and closing down before reappearing under a new name.

It will be a problem to stamp it out completely but the aim is to cover as much ground as possible with tighter laws.

It said a review is currently under way of the 1995 legislation which allows for non-directive counselling to be given to women in crisis pregnancy.

"This review is currently ongoing and a range of possibilities are being examined," the department said.

Subject to the views of the Attorney General, it may be possible to amend the law to ensure that only registered professionals are allowed to provide these counselling services.

This could be looked at in tandem with upcoming extensions of regulation to counsellors generally, it told the committee.

There are also rogue counsellors in areas like nutrition.

Irish Independent