Students for Life Ireland found the Irish health service’s free pregnancy counselling hotline, MyOptions, routinely directed women towards abortion without offering relevant information on other options or support. On January 13th the group released the results of a research project that looked into how a government hotline counsels women facing unplanned pregnancies.
“It is beyond question from the research carried out that MyOptions counsellors are not equipped to talk to clients about anything other than abortion. Even when women don’t seek information about it, abortion is the first issue counsellors raise with women facing an unplanned pregnancy,” the report stated.
“Shockingly, our research also shows that MyOptions counsellors repeatedly advise women to contact abortion providing GPs for their first consultation, even when women say they are unsure about whether to proceed with an abortion or not,” the study continued.
For the study, Students for Life arranged for a number of phone calls to the MyOptions hotline between November 2021 and January 2022.
On the Health Service Executive website, the hotline is touted as providing “information and support on all your options, including continued pregnancy supports and abortion services.” The health service also states that the hotline relies on proven counselling methods.
Students for Life wanted to test the truth of this claim and gauge how “counsellors interact with clients from diverse backgrounds with different needs and expectations, and whether there was an overfocus on providing abortion as a catch-all solution for those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.”
During the study, women of various ages and in different situations telephoned the hotline for advice and information. A concerned parent of a pregnant teenager also called. Students for Life found in each call the counsellor first brought up abortion as an option and offered little to no information on other options.
In one call, a forty-year-old who was already mother to four children explained that she was in a difficult financial situation and struggling in her marriage. Without the women mentioning abortion, the counselor asked her twice if she was considering abortion. The woman said she “didn’t like the idea” but was considering it “because I just don’t know of another option.” When the caller pressed the counselor again for alternatives to abortion, she told the woman that adoption “was probably the only other option.”
In their conversations with pregnant women, the counsellors never used the term ‘baby’ and “regularly downplayed women’s pleas for information about alternatives by repeatedly circling back to the issue of abortion,” the study concluded.
Students for Life also found that callers were frequently referred to the Irish Family Planning Association, which provides abortion services but not prenatal care services and has long campaigned for the legalisation of abortion.
Students for Life called for a complete review of MyOptions, and for trained personnel experienced in helping women carry through with their pregnancies, providing an option which, according to the organisation, “disgracefully is not happening at present.”