THE LYING GAME: ANTI-ABORTIONS CAMPAIGNERS AND THE WAR AGAINST TRUTH
Claiming to offer impartial family planning advice, rogue pregnancy information centres are pushing a pro-life slant. WORDS Daniel Finn
Fifteen years after the X case, Irish women are still being denied access to information about abortion. Now a group of pro-choice activists have launched a campaign against so-called "rogue" pregnancy information centres. They have highlighted an alarming pattern of distortion and manipulation by agencies offering advice to vulnerable young women.
"These agencies are rogue because they seem to be offering all the options, they're very much projecting an image of being pro-choice, you're going to be drawn to them if you're considering abortion as an option," argues psychologist Sinead Ahern, one of the organisers of the campaign. "They don't say explicitly that they think abortion is a bad thing and they disapprove of it, but they manipulate women into thinking abortion is bad and try to manipulate them out of making a choice to have an abortion, rather than giving them the facts of the matter."
The activists have targeted the self-styled Women's Resource Centre, a clinic based on
"We found the names of two alleged rogue agencies, A Choice for Women and the British Alternatives Pregnancy Services," says Sinead Ahern. "When women from our group phoned up the two numbers, we realised that they were both directing people to the same place on
One of the women who went to the
RELIGIOUS RIGHT WING
She was also given an information sheet, which described psychological effects of abortion, including "suicidal impulses", "preoccupation with death", "inability to forgive self" and "feeling of dehumanization". Although the literature states that women who have had abortions experience "thwarted maternal instincts" and "intense interest in babies", it also claims that they are much more likely to abuse any future children they may have - a suggestion that is entirely without foundation in experience or research. Another sheet which makes a completely fictitious link between abortion and breast cancer concludes: "The saying 'God always forgives, man sometimes forgives, nature never forgives' may be a good example in this case."
The agency behind the
While the name may have changed, it appears that the nature of the clinic has not. The evidence of the radio documentary is almost identical to the recording made last month and given to HOTPRESS. The same woman asked the same questions and gave the same advice in almost every detail - often repeating her lines word-for-word. Some figures associated with the clinic have been politically active on the Irish religious right-wing. Eamon Murphy, named by the Examiner as the head of the Aadam's centre, ran for the Euro Parliament in 1994 and 1999 as a radical anti-abortion candidate. Michael Larkin stood as a candidate for the Christian Solidarity Party in 2002 in both
Sinead Ahern wants the government to intervene and regulate the agencies offering advice to pregnant women. "One step that could be taken would be to strictly regulate the people who call themselves counsellors," she argues. "People working in this clinic present themselves as qualified professionals, but what right do they actually have to be giving pregnant women advice? A code of practice for counsellors could make a big difference."
The campaigners are planning to highlight other "rogue" centres they believe to be operating in