Counsellor offered shock anti-abortion propaganda
LARA BRADLEY IT looks like any other organisation offering a legitimate crisis pregnancy service. But far from offering the facts and a sympathetic ear, a counsellor at this organisation lured an apparently desperate woman into its office and bombarded her with vile anti-abortion propaganda and blatant medical misinformation.
The prominent advertisement for the 'Choice for Women - Women's Resource Centres' is listed in the Golden Pages alongside crisis pregnancy agencies. It promises: "Advice and help on your options. Information/services related to unexpected pregnancy - all options. Free pregnancy testing. Post-abortion counselling." The organisation has offices in Dublin, Mayo and Cork.
But instead of receiving information on the three options - parenting, adoption and abortion - as is her legal right, this woman was subjected to pro-life doctrine and outrageous half-truths.
Next week, NewsTalk 106 will broadcast a documentary which will reveal for the first time the full extent of the bullying and manipulative tactics used by some militant pro-lifers to dissuade women from travelling abroad for abortions.
Reporter Aisling Riordan went undercover to the group's Alpha office on Dorset St, Dublin where she recorded her dealings.
What she was told makes truly shocking listening.
Although abortion is illegal in Ireland, women have the right under the Abortion Information Act 1995 to receive information about abortion clinics in the context of a counselling session outlining all three options.
But an Alpha counsellor attempted to stall Ms Riordan telling her: "Anything can happen as this is your first pregnancy. You could have a miscarriage. There's no rush at all. You won't be going anywhere anyway. They wouldn't do an abortion until you're eight weeks because if they left a part inside you, you'd still be pregnant."
In fact, the abortion pill can be used at any stage of pregnancy up to nine weeks, while a suction abortion can be done from six weeks to 12 weeks gestation.
Britain's biggest abortion provider, Marie Stopes International, advises: "If you are pregnant and considering an abortion, it is important that you seek advice quickly,before your pregnancy is too advanced."
Ms Riordan was shown graphic photographs of aborted foetuses covered in blood and chemical burns and videos of the tools used in terminations. She was also shown pictures of the developing foetus in a religious book, and a small plastic foetus resembling a baby was put on the table to illustrate what was growing inside her - even though Ms Riordan had told the counsellor she was only a few weeks pregnant.
Perhaps most appalling of all, Ms Riordan was told that if she decided to progress with the pregnancy there was no need to attend a maternity hospital as Alpha would take care of her medical and financial needs. The counsellor said: "There are lovely mother and baby homes where they take over and will do everything for you and you can come back with a flat stomach."
Playing on a pregnant woman's natural fears, the counsellor presented a litany of half-baked medical theories throughout the one-hour counselling session. She told Ms Riordan, "A baby can feel pain at three weeks. That baby will feel pain five or six times more than we would due to the developing nervous system." She went on to say that the suction used in abortion is: "Forty times more powerful than the vacuum you do the floor with. If it perforated your womb, you'd have to have a hysterectomy or you would bleed to death . . . They might have to send for your next of kin."
Ms Riordan was told her risk of breast cancer would double after one abortionand rise even further after two or more.
Ireland's leading breast cancer expert Professor John Crown refuted this. The Consultant Oncologist at St Vincent's University Hospital said: "To state, incredibly, that most breast cancer is found in women that have had abortions is utterly untrue. The consensus of several large and authoritative research groups is that, at this point in time, there is no evidence for a linkage between induced abortion and the risk of breast cancer."
The crisis pregnancy counsellors at the Well Woman centres and the Irish Family Planning Association arenon-directive and "actively encourage" women to attend sessions with the support of a partner or friend, but this was not the case for Ms Riordan at 'A Choice for Women - Women's Resource Centres'.
CEO of the Well Woman centres Alison Begas last week warned of the prevalence of rogue agencies and urged the government to regulate the sector.
Ms Begas said: "There are agencies operating under the guise of being non-directive, who claim to offer information on all options, but in reality employ manipulative and bullying techniques when women seek information on abortion.
"The fact that such agencies can continue to exist with impunity is hugely damaging for women in a crisis pregnancy situation."
Ms Riordan also attended an abortion clinic in London used by 100 Irish women every month. The Ealing clinic carries out an average of 47 abortions every day - an average of two of which are just under the legal limit at 23 weeks' gestation.
Her documentary Abortion - My Journey will be broadcast on NewsTalk 106 on Tuesday between 9am and 11am.