In February 2014, Education for Choice (EFC), a taxpayer-funded branch of pro-choice organisation Brook, published a report on independent counselling centres across the UK. They ‘mystery-shopped’ a small proportion of Life’s care centres along with other independent (ie not attached or linked to abortion providers) centres over a two year period. Their conclusion discredits Life’s pregnancy care service and forms the basis of their criticism of Life’s care work and, in more recent days, of Life’s new campaign Finding Hope. Here we detail why their report is flawed and inaccurate.
- The “research” is not neutral or objective. It failed to include the counselling services provided by, or in association with, abortion providers and focused only on independent centres. The premise of their research, therefore, was value-driven and should have included assessment of all relevant counselling organisations, not just the ones which are driven by opposing values.
- EFC ‘mystery-shopped’ 33 independent centres out of a possible 135 or so, over a two-year period from 2012-2014. Despite the obvious bias underpinning their research (to discredit the services provided by independent centres) they still found only three Life Care Centres not up to standard – in their opinion.
- Their primary criticism was of a counsellor who, when asked about the health risks associated with abortion, provided brief, balanced and correct information regarding research on abortion and breast cancer. Studies and meta-analyses continue to be published suggesting that induced abortion is a risk factor for breast cancer.
- A secondary criticism focused on a counsellor’s response to the mystery shopper’s questions concerning what happens during an abortion using the ‘abortion pill’. The counsellor answered that when the abortion takes place, the client would most probably be alone in the bathroom. The EFC report took this out of context and portrayed the Life counsellor as frightening the client when, in fact, she was answering a query about the practicalities of having an abortion at home using this method.
- EFC also attempted to dismiss the emotions experienced by many women following an abortion, as nothing more than hearsay. It was indicated to one ‘mystery shopper’ that opting for an abortion could produce unexpected emotions afterwards, at any point in the future. Last year, over a quarter of the women who accessed LIFE’s Care service for emotional support, did so following an abortion.
- EFC fail to understand the distinction between what we do in the care room and our prolife ethos. The counselling we provide is completely person-centred, non-directive and non-judgemental, and adheres to the highest professional standards. In the care room, the client’s needs are always the most important consideration, and ethical convictions should not intrude and, should the client choose abortion, we respect her decision and provide after-abortion care.
- EFC have questioned the qualifications of the staff and volunteers on our National Helpline. All Life Helpliners are either fully qualified diploma counsellors or skilled listeners, many with years’ experience. The qualifications and experience of our volunteers is in line with, or exceeds, other charities’ Helplines, and we are members of the National Helpline Association.
We would welcome independent research into the quality of all counselling associated with pregnancy and abortion provided it:
- investigated counselling services associated with abortion providers as well as independent counselling services;
- is carried out and overseen by a body with no vested interests in the abortion industry or the independent sectors
The EFC report fails on these two critical criteria. It cannot therefore provide a credible or trustworthy assessment of our Care service.