The HSE has confirmed that its MyOptions helpline engaged with over 1,000 pregnant women via webchat in 2020. That’s almost double the number of ‘counselling’ sessions conducted via webchat over the previous year with women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
Let’s think for a second what this signifies. It means that women who are in the process of making what will likely be the most life-changing and consequential decision of their lives are being encouraged by the HSE to make that decision based on a cold and impersonal webchat, where there’s simply no possibility of calmly and comprehensively talking things through.
It is a further betrayal of women and their unborn babies that those in charge of overseeing pregnancy counselling provision in Ireland adopt such a cavalier and indifferent approach. The HSE’s current approach to pregnancy counselling is directly responsible for the over 60% increase in the number of abortions in the first year after its legalisation. It is wholly inappropriate that counselling should be conducted via webchat. Women and their unborn babies deserve better. There is an urgent need for a debate on the way pregnancy counselling is being provided at present. Women are entitled to be given information about positive alternatives to abortion before the abortion takes place.
In the section on the HSE website dealing with webchat, it is mentioned that those seeking assistance will be asked for their phone number if they need contact details of GPs who provide abortion services or medical advice from their nursing team. There is no mention of a phone conversation needing to happen for the purposes of counselling or to discuss proceeding with an abortion.
It is thanks to Mattie McGrath TD that the information has come to light about the number of MyOptions webchat ‘counselling’ sessions currently taking place. The information was provided in reply to a Parliamentary Question submitted to the Minister for Health by Deputy McGrath.