Irish Pro-Life Crisis Pregnancy Centers under Attack by Health Minister

Ireland’s health minister and the government-sponsored abortion referral service she helped to create have attacked pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, despite the country’s constitutional guarantee of legal protection for the unborn. Calling the pro-life groups "disingenuous," the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) accused them of manipulating vulnerable pregnant women into making a decision against abortion.

The CPA, the brainchild of Health Minister Mary Harney, said it is "launching a campaign" against the "rogue" pro-life agencies which it accuses of a "bias" against abortion in favor of life and motherhood. At the same time, CPA sponsors several of the country’s leading abortionist organizations and openly refers women for abortions overseas, including to the Irish Family Planning Association, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood International.

"The agency is aware of the existence of organizations that provide services which can involve a hidden agenda and who attempt to manipulate the decision a woman might make. The agency is strongly encouraging women to use services that provide high-quality counseling," said Katharine Bulbulia, chairman of the agency.

Mary Harney called efforts to convince women not to abort their children "quite appalling." She said, "The traits common to these organizations are that they misrepresent their services, they try to delay the appointment, they expose these women to highly upsetting images of late-term abortions or they may give misinformation about health issues. Some have even breached client confidentiality by phoning members of the women’s families."

But Pat Buckley, the Dublin-based European affairs officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told that he is appalled that pro-life counseling services have been denounced and attacked by the government of an officially pro-life country. The Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s constitution says "The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

Despite the constitution’s right-to-life clause, Harney set up the CPA that says it aims to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies by, in part, providing "contraceptive services" and facilitating referrals for women to abortion facilities in the UK. Buckley confirmed that Mary Harney has been "very supportive" of the idea that "women’s rights" must include the "right to abortion."

"In my opinion," he said, "it is improper for a government minister to be acting contrary to the Irish constitution."

Buckley called Harney’s statements "outrageous" saying, "She should retract, and if she’s not prepared to retract she should resign."

Buckley said that when Harney was setting up the CPA, the pro-life group Human Life International (HLI) had written asking for a meeting, but this was never granted. HLI also formally objected to being excluded from the planning and funding of CPA.

"Unless there is some other agenda at work," he said, "why is the Irish government doing this?"

The CPA announced the launching of a tax-funded outdoor advertising campaign, featuring an image of a woman being controlled like a puppet and the caption "Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated. Certain crisis pregnancy counselling information services want to influence your decision."

According to CPA’s website "Positive Options" , only those services that quickly refer a woman to a pro-abortion agency for "medical services" are "trustworthy" and "non-judgemental." The "rogue" agencies, it warns, will show "inappropriate images, videos or DVDs as part of a counselling session, which are designed to influence a woman’s decision."

Although Harney and CPA declined to mention names, it is likely they were aiming at groups not directly funded and controlled by CPA, such as Abbey Women’s Centre Dublin and Ask Majella Pregnancy Advisory Services. These advertise in the Dublin telephone directory under the category of "pregnancy testing and counseling." Life Pregnancy Care Service and Cura, the crisis pregnancy service run by the Irish Catholic bishops, are both funded and recognized as legitimate by CPA and also advertise under the same category.

Also advertising under that category, but omitting any wording revealing their strongly pro-abortion position, are CPA-approved Positive Options Crisis Pregnancy Services, Dublin Well Woman and the Irish Family Planning Association, which not only refers women for abortions overseas but is Ireland’s leading pro-abortion political lobby group, pressing for the removal of the constitutional clause protecting the unborn.

CPA’s pro-abortion bias was revealed in 2004 when Cura came under heavy criticism when it agreed to distribute pamphlets produced by the CPA that gave information referring women to overseas abortion facilities.

A group of Cura volunteers was dismissed in May 2005 when they refused to distribute the pamphlets and went public with their complaint in the Irish Catholic newspaper. The three volunteers, Phil Murray, Mary Kelly and Ann Farren, later received an apology from the CPA and were reinstated. The bishops later conceded that the volunteers had been right and began lengthy negotiations with CPA for the withdrawal of pro-abortion "Positive Options" material from all CURA centers.

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