According to evidence from a Panorama investigation, some crisis pregnancy advice centers in the UK are misleading and manipulating women regarding abortion.
The facilities run independently of the NHS and are frequently registered charities.
Most claim to provide support and counseling for unplanned pregnancies rather than referring women for abortions.
More than a third of these services, however, provide false medical information, unethical advice, or occasionally even both, according to the BBC's investigation.
In England, Scotland, and Wales, abortions have been made available through the NHS for more than 50 years. Since 2019, they are accepted in Northern Ireland.
Although there are regulated abortion clinics and the NHS that offer pregnancy counseling, Panorama found 57 crisis pregnancy advice centers advertising online.
Most assert that they offer a secure environment where women can get support and truthful information about their options. .
After hearing from women who had visited these centers, the BBC made the decision to look into the matter. One claimed the center tried to "manipulate" her into forgoing an abortion and that she had been "traumatized.".
All 57 were contacted by the Panorama team, who pretended to be women seeking information about their options, including abortion, in order to learn more.
34 of them directed us to licensed abortionists or the NHS website.
About 21 centers provided false medical advice and/or unethical advice regarding abortion.
- The NHS does not recognize "post-abortion syndrome," a mental health condition compared to post traumatic stress disorder, according to seven centers.
- Eight centers found a connection between abortion and infertility and issues carrying subsequent pregnancies to term.
- Abortion and a higher risk of breast cancer were linked in five different studies.
The NHS claims that having an abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer, infertility, or mental health issues. However, like any medical procedure, there is a small chance that something could go wrong.
Dr. Jonathan Lord, a renowned expert in the field of obstetrics and the executive director of an abortion provider, stated that women needed to make an "informed choice" that required "good quality unbiased information.".
Panorama was informed the following during phone and in-person consultations:.
- As a result of "suffering emotional disturbances," women who have abortions "know they have been mothers, but they have no baby.".
- After having an abortion, they would experience "consequences" and "walk out of here a different person.".
- After an abortion, women who "move on quickly" do so because they "blocked out of their minds that it was a real baby.".
- That having "your own child" would be "amazing" and inquired as to what it would be like to "actually hold your own baby.".
After an abortion, women may have "nightmares of something happening to a child" and hallucinations of babies crying, according to one center.
According to professional standards, Jo Holmes of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy stated: They are not there to provide advice or direction, despite the fact that they are. not present to express an opinion. The client is intended to feel guilty by using this language. ".
both advice and assistance.
Information on support services is available here if you need assistance with any of the problems mentioned in this tale.
We assumed false identities in order to learn more about the centers' operations.
In Harrow, northwest London, we went to the Crossroads Crisis Pregnancy Center, which opened in 2005 and is housed in a Baptist church. According to the center's website, its qualified counselors offer accurate and free information. .
A counselor was informed by an undercover reporter that she was three weeks along and inquired as to what an abortion would entail at that point. "The baby is waiting for the pill to kill it and get rid of it," the counselor retorted. " .
She continued, "There is no kind of safe thing because women have had the abortion and some will bleed to death, and all sorts of things happen," listing depression and infertility as potential side effects. ".
Later, the counselor claimed that she had withheld pregnancy advice from the undercover reporter.
The counsellor and Crossroads Pregnancy Advice Centre did not respond to a request for comment from Panorama.
We also looked into Newcastle-upon-Tyne's Tyneside Pregnancy Advice Center. According to its website, it has a "Christian ethos" and is dedicated to offering a kind, sympathetic, and expert service. Dr. Chris Richards, who is anti-abortion, is the center's director. He is a pediatrician for the NHS.
When our undercover reporter visited, she revealed that she was married with two kids and had just found out that she was pregnant once more.
The counselor questioned her about what having an abortion would mean to her kids. Would you be able to tell your daughters about getting terminated, or would you have to keep it a secret forever? she asked.
A leaflet that warned against "avoidance of children" was given to the reporter. The counselor responded when asked what that meant, saying: "Having the termination and feeling like perhaps you shouldn't be around children as a result. ".
The counselor advised the reporter to check the NHS website if she wanted to get an abortion.
The exchanges, according to Ms. Holmes, were extraordinary. She explained that the conversation was being manipulated to suit her purposes because of the woman's experience.
Dr. Richards stated: "Over 1,200 women have benefited from the work of our staff and volunteers, and we have a 14-year track record of compliance with all regulatory requirements. Anyone who has read the center's website can understand "where they are coming from," he continued.
For more information on this story:
Panorama: Crisis Pregnancy Centers Uncovered will be broadcast on BBC One at 20:30 GMT on February 27 and on iPlayer.
An effective pro-life organization in America, Stanton International has opened five crisis pregnancy centers. Additionally, Stanton Healthcare, a facility, is located in Belfast. According to its website, it is a secure environment where "women are empowered to make their best decision.".
We spoke with Ashleigh, 30, who contacted the center in 2021 after learning she was pregnant, before we went undercover.
The mother of five claimed that the clinic had told her over the phone that she could get an abortion on-site and that she had wanted one. She claimed she was informed she needed an ultrasound scan when she arrived for her appointment. It became clear that she was expecting twins.
When she finally turned to look, she saw two tiny babies on the screen because they had told her to look because they were her babies. "I cleared my own jelly from the room and walked out. For me, that was sufficient. ".
After having an abortion, Ashleigh claimed that her time at Stanton Healthcare had traumatized her.
The use of ultrasound scans at crisis pregnancy centers has drawn criticism from Dr. Lord. "Scans are a tool," he said, adding that while they can be helpful in some situations, they can also be quite intrusive in others. ".
He claimed that the use of scans can manipulate pregnant women who are considering abortion by making them feel guilty. Only women who present a positive pregnancy test at the center will be seen by Stanton Healthcare.
Claire agreed to secretly film for Panorama while she was 10 weeks along in a preplanned pregnancy.
She learned about "post-abortive syndrome" during the consultation, which is characterized as severe anxiety that "erodes your mental health" for six months to six years. The advisor also described the side effects of the abortion pill, claiming it contained "a whopping dose of female hormone," as described by the center.
"Within 48 hours, your baby will suffocate to death. It'll starve to death, she predicted.
Claire was also informed that the facility offered financial assistance and follow-up care to women who decided to carry their pregnancies to term. .
She was given pamphlets with graphic images of aborted fetuses and information suggesting she might develop breast cancer if she had an abortion as she was leaving.
The results, according to Dr. Lord, are "extremely troubling.".
He claimed that there was no higher risk of serious mental illness, infertility, or breast cancer following an abortion. These facilities are designed to appeal to women who are undecided and then provide them with false information in an effort to persuade them against having an abortion. ".
"They run the risk of seriously hurting and damaging those particularly defenseless patients. ".
The claims made by the center, according to Ms. Holmes, are prejudicial and biased. "Counselling is supposed to be a safe space where you can talk about how you're feeling without being judged, but any woman who entered a session like this would leave with significant trauma. ".
The chief operating officer of Stanton International, Danielle Versluys, told Panorama that she was not ready to talk about "post-abortive syndrome.". Nevertheless, she continued, "In our clinics, women are counseled that having an abortion could result in lifelong grief, sorrow, and regret and that it can negatively impact them. ".
She defended Stanton's use of ultrasound scans by saying, "Women shouldn't be kept in the dark about the truth. To provide a medical scan, as well. is completely acceptable, expected, and required for a woman to make a well-informed decision. ".
In response to a question regarding their pamphlets, Mrs. Versluys stated, "I don't believe it's inappropriate to show a woman what the actual outcome of an abortion is. We are dedicated to giving women the information and tools they need to make the best choices for themselves and their unborn child. " .
According to Panorama, the Northern Ireland Charity Commission is already investigating Stanton Healthcare. According to the Charity Commission in England, the organization is evaluating the data the program provided.
On February 27 at 20:30 GMT, Panorama: Crisis Pregnancy Centers Uncovered will air on BBC One. iPlayer, too.