An undercover investigation in Ireland has revealed that staff at some pregnancy counseling services are giving advice that could put women's lives at risk.
According to the Irish Independent, the probe was carried our over several months by a team of women who secretly recorded the counselors at 11 taxpayer-funded locations around the country.
Some of the advice given was both illegal and medically dangerous. In several instances, the counselors told women to hide their abortions from their doctors. Doing this could be deadly if a post-surgery abortion complication, such as perforation of the womb following termination, goes undiagnosed.
Clients at the Dundalk office of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), and at two Dublin branches of the IFPA in Tallaght and Cathal Brugha Street were told they could conceal their abortions from their doctors. An HSE employee at Ballinasloe Crisis Pregnancy Support Service in Galway also gave the same advice.
"It is definitely reckless and probably negligent advice to tell a woman to conceal from doctors something that may be a vital part of her medical history," said Dr. Simon Mills, a barrister and medical doctor.
"This is especially the case if she presented unwell in the immediate aftermath of a termination and felt that she shouldn't tell her doctor about it when it could be the key piece of information to deliver prompt and life-saving treatment.
"If somebody turned around and said the reason I didn't tell my doctor was because a counsellor told me it wasn't necessary, civil liability would almost certainly arise and I think it is possible that criminal liability could too."
The HSE has launched an investigation of the clinics, which are overseen and funded by the HSE's Crisis Pregnancy Programme (CPP), and a spokesperson has stated that any potential breaches of the legislation will be pursued.
Police at Dublin's Store Street station are also looking into the findings of the investigation which was carried out by a group of women posing as pregnant clients.
The investigative research team was made up of 30 people and included teachers, lawyers and doctors, some of which support the pro-life movement.
Women were also instructed on how to get the abortion pill at the Tallaght and Cork branches of the IFPA, which is illegal in Ireland. The pills which induce abortion by causing a miscarriage, should only be taken under medical supervision because of the the health risks.
A counselor at Tallaght IFPA told one woman how to smuggle in the abortion bill, saying "If you have an address in the North or you can buy a PO box number, and get them to send it . . . You can. . . then go and collect the tablets in the North and take them down here."
The IFPA released a statement saying that "all of its counsellors set out to work in adherence with the law" and that its services operate "under protocols and procedures which take into account all legislative requirements."
The organization declined an offer to review the evidence from the probe.
"We had heard that questionable practices were going on," said
"The 1995 Abortion Information Act is very clear when it comes to the obligations of counsellors and the information they are allowed to give.
"But our investigation found that this legislation is being breached on a wide scale and that Irish women in crisis pregnancies are getting dangerous medical advice.
"This reflects a high level of contempt for their health and well-being, not to mention the law."