Reports coming from an undercover investigation show that crisis pregnancy counseling centers in Ireland are giving harmful advice to women regarding disclosure of past abortions. The Health Service Executive (HSE) is now investigating the matter.
Women in Ireland were being advised that it isn’t necessary to tell their doctors about previous abortions. The master of Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, Professor Coulter Smith, spoke of the potential danger to women if they don’t disclose their full medical history to a treating physician:
It is very hard for a doctor to give a woman correct advice if they are being kept in the dark and not being told the full medical history.
There are certain recognized complications that can arise with terminations. Perforation of the womb is one of them and it can have a devastating effect on the integrity of the uterine wall in subsequent pregnancies.
I am aware of cases where women have died because they didn’t tell doctors they had had termination which caused their womb to perforate.
One woman was given the following advice:
[G]oing on to have future pregnancies, there is no onus on you to disclose that you’ve had a termination.
There is no direct relationship between termination, future pregnancy, anything like that. They don’t need to know. They will ask you the same general question: is this your first pregnancy? You can say ‘Yes’.
Paul McDermott, a senior constitutional lawyer in Ireland, said this type of advice could open the counseling agencies to liability, both civil and criminal.
The counseling clinics where this advice has been given are clinics that were set up to encourage women to consider the option of parenting or adoption instead of traveling to another country for an abortion. Over €3.1 million in public funding were given to these crisis pregnancy centers last year.
But the story doesn’t stop at just advising women not to tell their doctors of an abortion. Abortion pills are illegal in Ireland, but they can be smuggled in through the other country that shares the island, North Ireland. However, counselors in Ireland have been caught giving women advice on how to obtain these pills. This advice was caught on a recording:
If you have an address in the North or you can buy a PO box number, and get them to send it[.] … You can … then go and collect the tablets in the North and take them down here.
Here’s one of the disclaimers from a counselor:
I suppose I’m not encouraging you to break the law or get into trouble . . . but it can be done.
According to Eilis Muroy, an attorney and pro-life member of the research team, this type of advice shows contempt for both the law and the women who receive this advice:
The 1995 Abortion Information Act is very clear when it comes to the obligations of counsellors and the information they are allowed to give.
But our investigation found that this legislation is being breached on a wide scale and that Irish women in crisis pregnancies are getting dangerous medical advice.
This reflects a high level of contempt for their health and well-being, not to mention the law.