Anti-choice language ‘deliberately stigmatising’

The debate on the Eighth Amendment has prompted a surge in the number of people accessing post-abortion counselling.

“Since last autumn there has been a 20% increase in the number of people seeking our post-abortion counselling and we expect that will grow between now and the referendum,” said Dublin Well Woman Centre chief executive Alison Begas.

She said people come in after “hearing comments made by public figures that may be insensitive or uncaring or ill-informed”.

This is the second time the centre has seen an increase in demand for its services.

“In the six-month period after the death of Savita Halappanavar, from October 2012 to March 2013, there was a phenomenal increase in the number of women coming in to us,” said Ms Begas. “We saw a 50% increase. Some came in just from sheer anger.”

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has seen a similar increase.

“In the last quarter of 2017, there was an 18% increase in women attending the IFPA pregnancy counselling service,” said chief executive Niall Behan.

He said people accessing the IFPA’s counselling services were reaching out for similar reasons to those contacting the Dublin Well Woman Centre.

“The rhetoric of the abortion debate can trigger a range of feelings in women who have had terminations,” said Mr Behan.

“The language and imagery used by the anti-choice campaigners are stigmatising, and sometimes deliberately so. It’s aimed at undermining a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

“So women who have had terminations may feel under attack. When this happens, it can be helpful to speak to a professional counsellor.”

Both organisations offer non-directive counselling to any person who needs it and whether an abortion happened in recent times or many years ago.

Ms Begas said Dublin Well Woman Centre has both men and women coming to it for counselling and some relate to abortions which took place as long as 30 years ago.

“We see people from all walks of life, from junior partners in law firms to homeless women, and from the age of 13 to 53,” she said.

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