by KITTY HOLLAND
Tue, Jul 21, 2009
ROGUE PREGNANCY counselling agencies who seek to manipulate vulnerable women experiencing a crisis pregnancy are “quite appalling”, Minister for Health Mary Harney has said.
She was commenting on the announcement of a new campaign from the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) highlighting such agencies and giving information to women to avoid them.
Director of the Agency Caroline Spillane said between July 2007 and March 2008 its funded service providers had reported 67 cases where women had been been the victims of such “agencies” purporting to be unbiased but which had an agenda to steer women away from abortion.
These were just the women, she added, who made it to other agencies and who reported their experiences.
“The traits common to these organisations are that they misrepresent their services, they try to delay the appointment, they expose these women to highly upsetting images of late-term abortions or they may give misinformation about health issues. Some have even breached client confidentiality by phoning members of the women’s families.”
She said the CPA did not know how many such rogue agencies were operating.
The campaign was announced at the publication of the CPA’s annual report yesterday which also shows a continued decrease in the number of women travelling to Britain for abortions.
Outdoor advertising sites will be used as part of the campaign featuring a woman being controlled like a puppet, with strings attached to her arms and feet. The caption beside her reads: “Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. Certain crisis pregnancy counselling information services want to influence your decision.”
It then gives advice on how to access free, non-judgemental support.
A section on the website positiveoptions.ie also provides questions a woman should ask before making an appointment for counselling to ensure its bone fides.
Minister Harney said the Agency had “achieved huge things” since its foundation in 2001 and noted the 31 per cent decrease since then in the number of women travelling to Britain for an abortion, from 6,673 eight years ago to 4,600 last year.
There has also been a 20 per cent decrease in the number of teenage births in the period 2001 to 2007 – from 3,087 in 2001 to 2,464.
Ms Harney, describing these as “an incredible improvement” said “there is no way that would have happened without the assistance of this organisation.”
CPA chairwoman Katherine Bulbulia referring to the forthcoming amalgamation of the Agency into the HSE, urged the Minister to protect its functions, while acknowledging costs had to be cut in the current climate.
“Public sector reform is part of the process, but reform must be progressive. Government must resist the temptation to make decisions purely on a cost basis.
“There is a need to ensure continuity of work and maintain momentum.”
Ms Harney said she intended to ensure “structures do not get in the way of the appropriate thing happening.
“The remit of this agency and its function will transfer and I will endeavour to ensure the very important function will remain in place, notwithstanding the changes.”
© 2009 The Irish Times