‘Constant battle’ over rogue crisis pregnancy agencies

‘Constant battle’ over rogue crisis pregnancy agencies

The HSE is involved in a “constant battle” against rogue crisis pregnancy agencies, the Oireachtas committee examining the Eighth Amendment has heard, writes Elaine Loughlin.

State-funded services are having to pump significant finances into countering “disingenuous” and rogue agencies who are “targeting” women online.

Janice Donlon of the HSE’s sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme told the committee that many of these agencies often change their name and location, making it more difficult to warn women in crisis not to attend them.

Responding to questions from Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly, Ms Donlon said: “What we have seen through our communications unit in the HSE, women seek information about abortion services and about crisis pregnancies primarily online, so through a Google search, and these rogue agencies, these disingenuous agencies are targeting women by increasing the spend in terms of paid AdWords on Google.”

The HSE funds counselling services that provide support for women who are experiencing a crisis pregnancy and those who have gone through with an abortion. Ms Donlon said the HSE is constantly trying to outbid rogue organisations to ensure HSE-sponsored ads appear first on search engines, but this requires substantial investment.

She added: “It is very difficult to deter women from a certain agency when you do not know where they are located. It is incredibly difficult.”

Ms Dolan said the HSE would welcome regulation of crisis pregnancy agencies to “even the playing field in terms of transparency”.

Differences of opinion between Fine Gael members of the committee were aired after Peter Fitzpatrick questioned Dr Caitriona Henchion, medical director of the Irish Family Planning Association, on the decreasing numbers of women who are now opting to have their children adopted.

Fellow Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell asked whether Mr Fitzpatrick was suggesting a Handmaid’s Tale situation whereby women in crisis pregnancies would be “detained, forced to become parents, and used as a source of supply of babies to childless people”. She said: “I have to say that’s up there with the most shocking thing I have heard today and I hope to God no one forces me into that situation, good luck to you if you do!”

Dr Henchion said difficulty in accessing or affording contraception and “inconsistent” sex education in schools are two of the most significant contributors to crisis pregnancies.

Ms O’Connell said it was a “no-brainier” that the committee should call for for universal free access to contraceptives.

Dr Henchion said there was “no question” that current laws on abortion, which include criminal charges, have a “chilling effect” and hang over doctors as a “huge threat”.

She said instead of being free and comfortable in discussions with women who facing a crisis pregnancy or contemplating an abortion, doctors are more guarded and constantly thinking of the law.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

More in this Section

Four men arrested following seizure of cannabis worth €40k in CorkFour men arrested following seizure of cannabis worth €40k in Cork

HSE chief expects a million downloads of Covid-19 tracker app in first 24 hoursHSE chief expects a million downloads of Covid-19 tracker app in first 24 hours

Eamon Ryan missed opportunity to promote women and unite the party, says Catherine MartinEamon Ryan missed opportunity to promote women and unite the party, says Catherine Martin

Covid-19: Airborne transmission cannot be ruled out, says WHOCovid-19: Airborne transmission cannot be ruled out, says WHO


Lifestyle

Dónal Clancy is a musician from An Rinn in Co Waterford. He will perform the music of his late father, Liam Clancy, in a special online solo performance on Thursday at 7pm as part of this year's Clonmel Junction Festival.Question of Taste: Dónal Clancy

BETWEEN 1973 and early 1975, John Lennon split with Yoko Ono, took up with his assistant May Pang and embarked on a period of intense creativity and outrageous behaviour. Lennon later described this time as his “lost weekend”.Rufus Wainwright has returned a new man

Stan O’Sullivan tells Ellie O’Byrne about the genre-busting album from 2007 that probably doesn’t get the recognition it deservesB-Side the Leeside: 'Louder & Clearer' with Stanley Super 800

In recent times one of the most recurring and troubling conversations I have with teenagers, in therapy, is around their use of marijuana. Often parents seek out therapy because they have noticed a dramatic shift in their child’s behaviour.Richard Hogan: Beware of making light of your teen's marijuana use

More From The Irish Examiner