Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Irish Times: More find it harder to afford abortion services

Health Correspondent

Tue, Jun 29, 2010

MORE WOMEN are reporting difficulties in coming up with the money necessary to access abortion services, according to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA).

The association’s chief executive, Niall Behan, said yesterday that the association counsellors were seeing more women reporting this difficulty in the current economic climate.

The association offers counselling at centres in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, Gorey, Letterkenny, Limerick, Monaghan, Sligo and Waterford.

Mr Behan said, however, that “finances are only one of a range of factors women take into account in their decision-making process”.

His comments came a day after Dublin’s Well Woman Centre said increasing numbers of women attending its three pregnancy counselling services in the capital were considering terminating pregnancies as a consequence of the recession.

Chief executive Alison Begas said up to one in five of the 2,000 or so women who presented to Well Woman for pregnancy counselling last year cited financial concerns as the main reason why they were seeking information on having a termination.

However not all crisis pregnancy counselling services are seeing the same trend. Deirdre Seery, director of the Sexual Health Centre in Cork, said the numbers it was seeing who were considering terminations for financial reasons hadn’t increased.

“In fact what we’ve heard anecdotally through the various strands of our work is women are saying they may as well be pregnant because they are not working, that it’s a good time to get pregnant,” she said.

Meanwhile Dublin Well Woman’s annual report, published yesterday, said the recession is also affecting the numbers of people presenting for full screening for sexually transmitted infections (STI). It said the numbers attending for such testing had fallen by about a third.

“Sadly we don’t think that’s due to massive behavioural change . . . we think its probably due to financial constraints,” Ms Begas said.

A full screening which involves blood and swab tests to check for infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis costs €145 at Well Woman. While screening is free at some public hospitals, clients may have to wait for the service, Well Woman said.

It said reduced testing meant a lower detection and treatment rate of STIs which ultimately exposes more sexually active people to risk.

Separately, Well Woman reported a significant increase in the numbers of women presenting for cervical smear tests last year after the death from cervical cancer of UK celebrity Jade Goody.

© 2010 The Irish Times


Irish Times: Alarm over pregnancy advice by 'rogue' agencies

Tue, Jun 29, 2010

Women report feeling traumatised after anti-abortion groups use misleading advertising to convince them to use their services, writes CAROL RYAN

THE HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme is advising women to avoid “unreliable” counselling services, after it received 67 complaints over a nine-month period about certain agencies which tried to influence women’s decisions about their pregnancies.

Several women who approached these agencies for advice on their options reported feeling distressed by the counselling techniques used. State-funded pregnancy counselling services are concerned about the issue, and have called on the Government to step in and regulate their activities.

Pregnancy counselling services in Ireland generally state their ethos to help women select an appropriate service. One of the criticisms levelled against unreliable agencies by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) among others, is that their advertising is misleading, implying that they will provide information about abortion services abroad when this is not the case.

An IFPA report claims that so-called “rogue” agencies use pro-choice language and advertise in a manner designed to attract women who may be considering abortion, when in reality they have an anti-abortion ethos.

The report describes how the services, listed under “family planning” in the Golden Pages , offer to discuss “all options” and refer to UK cities in their advertisements. The IFPA claims the ads are misleading, “inducing in the reader the false expectation that they will provide information on abortion services”.

The counselling methods used by these agencies have also come in for strong criticism. The Well Woman Clinic regularly encounters women who have visited them and found the experience upsetting.

“From what we hear, women are subjected to the most extraordinary tactics,” says Alison Begas, chief executive of the Well Woman Centre.

“We have heard stories of counselling sessions lasting three to four hours, the use of lurid US-produced videos and disturbing images.

“None of these tactics has any place in responsible pregnancy counselling. The problem is that most women don’t know where to go for advice until they actually need it.”

She adds that silence surrounding the issue of abortion leaves women vulnerable to “spurious” medical information, and women who have a bad experience with a rogue agency are less likely to seek the good quality service they need to make an informed decision.

Sarah (not her real name) became pregnant at 19 and made an appointment with a pregnancy counselling agency in Dublin with a view to discussing a termination.

“Our contraception failed. Myself and my boyfriend were both in college and it was fairly obvious to us that we didn’t want a child. We went to the Golden Pages , looked at family planning. We made a phone call to this place saying we wanted to talk about having an abortion, going to England.

“I think the ad made some reference to English clinics, it definitely gave the impression they gave out abortion information . . . I don’t think I would have had the guts to say it if the ad wasn’t like that.

“They said, ‘Yes, come in, that is what we do and we will give you all the information you need’. There was no hint of religion or anything. We went in together with our minds made up, and the place was horrible, really grotty.

“They separated us pretty much immediately after the test. What I remember is coming out after two or three hours in there and us both looking at each other and saying, ‘Okay, we can’t do that now, it’s not an option anymore’.

“They talked about how an abortion would ruin our relationship, that we would break up, and that really got to us.

“They said I would not be able to have children again; my family would think I was awful; that I’d never want to have sex again; they actually managed to change our mind about this huge thing.

“They said my risk of breast cancer would go up two or three times, and called several times afterwards to ask what decision I made. I think they cause a lot of confusion and pain in the long run. They have to be closed down. I mean, it is such a huge thing to have to go through.”

The medical information given to women about the side effects and potential complications of abortion is controversial.

Sinéad Ahern, spokeswoman for Choice Ireland, posed as a pregnant client to find out what kind of information these agencies were giving.

She was told that if she had an abortion she would “most certainly need a hysterectomy, cervical cancer, most women end up with infections and infertility. . . that I’d become promiscuous, or frigid”.

Women have been told that abortion can lead to depression, drug addiction, alcoholism and an increased risk of abusing any future children they might have. The agencies also claim that abortion doubles the risk of developing breast cancer.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the World Health Organisation have both stated that abortion is not associated with any increased risk of breast cancer.

The Abbey Women’s Centre, a pregnancy counselling service advertised in the Golden Pages, has been named by Choice Ireland as a suspected rogue agency.

Patrick Jameson, spokesman for the service, objects to criticisms of its counselling techniques and the “rogue” label.

He says the service is important, adding: “We are here to protect women from abortion profiteering.”

When asked about the use of abortion imagery and videos during counselling sessions, he said they are used “to show women the truth about abortion, women should not be denied the truth about what happens. It is natural that they find it upsetting.”

He said that many State-funded services are in fact “rogue” as they “deny women the truth, the real medical information about abortion and not offering women realistic help to have the baby”.

The Department of Health currently has no plans to consider a regulatory licensing system for this area but says the approach adopted by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme “is, among other things, to further raise the public profile of State-funded crisis pregnancy services”.

The HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme advises women to visit the Positive Options website (positive options.ie) for a list of free, State-funded crisis pregnancy services available countrywide. It recommends that women visit a non-directive crisis pregnancy service, and to find out as much as possible about the service before making an appointment.

The Abortion Information Act 1995 establishes a right to information about abortion services abroad, but details must be given in the context of a face-to-face counselling session, and only in conjunction with comprehensive information about both parenting and adoption options.

© 2010 The Irish Times


Monday, June 28, 2010

Irish Times: Increasing numbers consider abortion 'because of recession'

Health Correspondent

Mon, Jun 28, 2010

WOMEN IN increasing numbers are considering terminating pregnancies as a consequence of the recession, according to Dublin’s Well Woman Centre.

Chief executive Alison Begas said yesterday that up to one in five of the 2,000 of so women who presented to Well Woman for pregnancy counselling last year cited financial concerns as the main reason why they were seeking information on having a termination.

Some of the women were married and already had children, some were professionals who had had their salaries or hours cut, and some came to discuss their options accompanied by their partners who had recently lost their jobs, she said.

She said figures collated by Well Woman’s three centres in Dublin – Ballsbridge, Coolock and Liffey Street in the city centre – which offer non-directive counselling, showed increased numbers of women with financial concerns attending for pregnancy counselling services in 2009.

While in previous years women cited financial concerns as reasons for considering a termination, those financial concerns had more to do with lifestyle factors such as wanting to spend their money travelling the world, she said.

Ms Begas said the trend was disturbing. “It’s only one other aspect of how the recession is impacting on women’s health . . . it’s insidious the way it hits people,” she said.

Ms Begas, who was speaking in advance of the publication today of Well Woman’s annual report, said women coming to the counselling service were of all ages – from students up to women in their 40s. They included “barristers, managing directors, housewives and students”.

“We would see probably a couple of thousand women a year of all ages. What we have found in the last year in about 15 to 20 per cent of the pregnancy counselling services is that the woman was specifically citing income worries and issues around financial security as reasons for attending.

“When counsellors delved deeper into that, it was either she might have lost her job recently or had her hours or salary reduced or there was a fear that was on the horizon. Or similarly that may have happened to her husband or partner.

“Sometimes these were married couples with one or two children and everything was very, very tight [financially] and considering continuing with the pregnancy was something they felt unable to do,” she said. “What we have also heard from younger women, maybe in university facing a crisis pregnancy, is they were not confident they would immediately get a job on graduation or secure a job with an income that would allow them cover creche fees.”

Well Woman’s pregnancy counselling service is funded by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme (formerly the Crisis Pregnancy Agency) and is free for all women.

“We will discuss with a woman her three options including abortion, adoption and parenting. We cannot and do not offer any advice. We do not try to persuade her,” she said.

As a result Ms Begas said she did not know how many of the women with financial worries actually went on to have an abortion or, if following counselling, they reconsidered. “We never know what decision she makes when she leaves the room.”

© 2010 The Irish Times


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cork Women's Right to Choose Film Night

Cork Women's Right To Choose Group are showing two 30 minute documentaries
this coming Thursday, June 10th at 8 PM at Solidarity Books:

Abortion Diaries

Like a Ship in the Night

There will also be time for discussion of the films and the issues

8pm, Thursday June 10th
Solidarity Books
43 Douglas Street