Some women reading this may have experienced an unexpected pregnancy and made contact with a crisis pregnancy centre to seek advice on what to do next. Very probably, they would have contacted one of the advice agencies listed on Positive Options, a project to promote State-funded crisis pregnancy centres around the country. If you ever do find yourself needing advice on an unplanned pregnancy, visit www.positiveoptions.ie or text LIST to 50444 to obtain information on pregnancy advice agencies: their counselling is free, confidential, and without pressure.

EDIT (Sept 2016): It’s come to my knowledge that some of the groups listed on www.positiveoptions.ie do not provide abortion information. Please ensure you are contacting a group that’s suitable for your needs.

However, some readers may have inadvertently contacted untrustworthy agencies who do try to pressure women into doing things to fit their agenda: rogue agencies. One of these rogue counselling agencies is known as Gianna Care Ltd, and is based at 46a Upper Dorset Street, Dublin 1.

What Are Rogue Agencies?

From the Positive Options webpage on trustworthy agencies:

Some organisations have a hidden agenda.  The service they provide is designed to influence the choice a woman makes and to pressure a woman into doing something she doesn’t want to.  Once these agencies have been contacted by a client they can seek to delay the counselling process and, in certain cases, show clients inappropriate images or use other tactics in an effort to influence their decision.

The Women’s Resource Centre (WRC), which used to operate at 50 Upper Dorset St (only a few doors away from Gianna Care), was operated by members of the Christian Centrist Party and the Christian Solidarity Party, Eamonn Murphy and Martin Larkin. Over the years, this group changed its name numerous times to try to avoid attention. However, it usually started with the letter ‘A’ – probably to appear near or at the start of the phonebook. The group came to the attention of the High Court as it was believed to be operating an illegal adoption agency.

What Do They Do and Say?

Rogue crisis pregnancy agencies have the aim of stopping women obtaining an abortion. A reputable service will provide information on abortion if requested, but it will not try to persuade a woman to do anything one way or the other. However, a rogue agency will guilt and shame a woman as much as possible, and the Women’s Resource Centre mentioned above is no exception:

In the room upstairs there was a small table and two chairs, and a television and video in the corner. The carpet was scruffy. The man asked me to do a pregnancy test and I went to the bathroom down the hall, which was just as bad. He asked me had I been using any protection. He took out a dummy of a 10-week-old foetus and said this was what was inside me, and did I want to kill it. Then he put on the video and showed all the instruments and how they perform an abortion. It was awful. I’m still going through it. He gave me all these pictures and letters from people he said went to him and decided to have their babies. There were pictures of the babies. He gave me medals and prayers, and a poem meant to be from a foetus to its mother asking not to be killed. It was spooky.

[From the Choice Ireland link above, quoting the Irish Times; emphasis my own]

Those are the words of a 20-year old woman who visited WRC to seek advice on abortion.

The same group tried to dissuade another young woman from having an abortion at a visit during which she recorded the conversations. This featured in an article in Hot Press magazine. She was repeatedly told the persistent lie that abortion causes breast cancer:

Your risk of breast cancer rises significantly… every woman who has an abortion her risk of breast cancer rises… you’re the one that’s going to have to go away and get up in the stirrups and risk breast cancer which is already in your family…if you decide to continue with the pregnancy you’ll have protected yourself for life from breast cancer.

But let’s get back to Gianna Care. What do they do? Well, straight off, it’s quite clear from their website that they don’t even pretend to be unbiased when it comes to abortion (“Compassionate, life-affirming, confidential”), but instead of using guilt- and religion-based strategy, Gianna Care go for the scare tactics. Here is some of the misinformation – and some outright lies – put forth on their FAQ page:

  • “Most relationships do not survive abortion. The stress and guilt that often follows an abortion can cause them to fall apart.”
  • “Side effects of abortion include: Death”
  • “The fact is, there are very serious physical health risks involved with this surgery.”
  • “81 percent of women reported negative reactions to their abortions, including sorrow, sadness, guilt, regret, grief and disappointment.”
  • “Post-Abortion Syndrome, is a severe post traumatic stress reaction to abortion, and has a serious impact on a woman’s life and health.”

Firstly, lots of women have abortions. Statistically, the average person knows a couple of women who have had an abortion. When it comes to health risks, all medical procedures and surgeries have risks – death included – but Gianna Care would have you believe there’s a very big chance of you dying if you have an abortion: there isn’t; it’s actually more risky to give birth (which is very safe!) than to have an abortion. While nobody denies that some women have regrets about having an abortion, post-abortion syndrome is pretty much a myth, and the vast majority of women experience relief, happiness, and the belief that they made the right choice for them.

On another page, Gianna Care continue with the scaremongering, using language that is more in line with vocal anti-choice activists in Ireland:

But the sad truth is that many abortion referral centers don’t fully inform you of the reality of living with an abortion. 
  • You may not get to see an ultrasound of your baby
  • No one will explain the development of your child in the womb
  • You won’t be told exactly what the abortionist will do during the procedure
  • And you won’t be offered any support if you decide to keep your baby.
They are only interested in one choice for you – abortion.
Abortion is a business, so please make sure you do not feel under any pressure.
Any legitimate pregnancy advice agency will happily give you an ultrasound image if they have the facility to perform an ultrasound. You will be told about your pregnancy if you wish to know, including development, and – from what I can see – all of the agencies listed by Positive Options give advice and counselling on parenting and adoption. The legitimate agencies receive funding from the State so that they can usually operate at no cost to women seeking their crisis pregnancy services; to say that they’re a business is disingenuous, and is yet another attempt to scare women into not making a decision right for them.

It may also be worth noting that both rogue agencies – the Women’s Resource Centre and Gianna Care – are located quite close to the Marie Stopes clinic only a few hundred metres away on Berkely Street.

Who Runs Gianna Care?

This is where it gets interesting. First thing’s first: check the directors. This is where we find Carolyn O’Meara.

gianna1

As it happens, Carolyn O’Meara has been described as a “Youth Defence leader”, and was the organiser of the ’40 Days for Life’ event that took place in 2011. Youth Defence’s news article also tells us how Carolyn’s involvement with sidewalk counselling inspired her to organise the event.

But can we be sure that this is the same Carolyn O’Meara? Yes! We can indeed. Representatives from Stanton, an anti-choice pregnancy advice group based in California, paid a visit to Gianna Care and were kind enough to document the visit on their website.

On Friday morning, we went to Gianna Care, a pregnancy medical clinic in Dublin. We were there at the invitation of clinic director Carolyn O’Meara…

Carolyn and her volunteers reach out to abortion-minded women who are entering the Marie Stopes abortion referral agency – literally just down the street from Gianna Care.  They invite the mothers to come to Gianna Care for a free ultrasound (and a cup of tea), offering them kindness and compassion instead of an airplane reservation to England to kill their baby.

We left Gianna Care to return to the Youth Defence office where Brandi and I met with Bernadette Smyth and her husband Derek about the pregnancy medical clinic they are working to open just above the Precious Life office in Belfast.

Bear in mind that Precious Life is Youth Defence’s sister organisation based in Northern Ireland.

Gianna Care state that they were set up by volunteers and offer their services for free. But how do they pay for their rent? Or electricity bills? Or phone bills? They must be getting money from somewhere, and as it happens, Youth Defence and pals at 60a Capel St are in receipt of lots of it from the other side of the Atlantic. Convenient! Of course, they can’t let SIPO know where their money is coming from or going, so if they are funding Gianna, it’s no doubt quite hush-hush…

Anything else? Unsurprisingly, yes. There was (and maybe still is?) a school’s programme called On Track where Junior Certificate SPHE pupils were given a book on various issues, including sex and sexual health:

Who knows how this material got into schools. But what we do know is that it was run by Youth Defence. How do we know this? Well, Youth Defence had, back in 2006, a programme for schools that promoted abstinence called On Track, which is somewhat “coincidental”. But more importantly, the book was authored by Youth Defence activists Linda Gorman, Susan Scanlan, and none other than Carolyn O’Meara.

So there you have it. Do Youth Defence run and fund Gianna Care Ltd, a rogue pregnancy counselling service that tries to stop women from obtaining abortions by lying, guilting, and shaming?

Well, it certainly looks like it.

Thanks to everyone who helped with getting this information together – you know who you are <3