Bill to tackle rogue crisis pregnancy agencies

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has said she is “delighted” that the Government will be backing a bill to tackle rogue crisis pregnancy agencies.
Bill to tackle rogue crisis pregnancy agencies

The bill being brought forward by Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin, will be debated in the Dáil later this week and is expected to be supported by both opposition and Government parties.

The Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill 2016 will for the first time introduce laws to require that those who provide counselling to women experiencing crisis pregnancies be registered and regulated.

Ms Zappone yesterday said: “I am delighted that the Government has decided to support that bill. I commend Mr Howlin for bringing that forward so quickly in response to issues raised by the media.”

Speaking at a Focus Ireland event to mark a week of events leading up Universal Children’s Day she added: “It is another action that we need to put in place in order to ensure the rights of pregnant women.”

Her comments come after Health Minister Simon Harris informed Mr Howlin of his intention to support the bill which was first introduced to the Dáil last month.

However, the Government may also table some amendments or come up with its own proposals to tackle the unregulated sector which has been the subject of controversy in recent times.

An undercover investigation by The Times (Ireland edition) revealed false information was being given out to women attending crisis pregnancy agencies for counselling. A staff member in a north inner city clinic falsely told the undercover reporter that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer and can turn women into child abusers.

Mr Howlin has appealed to all political parties to support the legislation designed to tackle the behaviour of such rogue agencies.

He said the bill “is crucial to ensuring that women at a time of exceptional vulnerability, are given the accurate and impartial information they not only deserve, but are entitled to”.

“We have heard frightening tales of how women in crisis pregnancy situations have been told that abortion increases their risk of breast cancer, or that those who have had abortions may later go on to be abusers,” said Mr Howlin.

“For too long these agencies have been allowed to lie to women in the most grotesque fashion, and it’s time we worked together on all sides of the House to put an end to this abuse.”

Speaking ahead of the debate, he said he hoped the Government and other parties in opposition would “recognise the need to legislate to protect these women during the most difficult of times”.

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