In February 2014, the Daily Telegraph published a series of extremely disturbing articles based on an undercover investigation of a small number of self-styled “Crisis Pregnancy” Centres.
The centrepiece of this investigation was a video lasting just under one and half minutes which showed a dark-haired young women flipping casually through a set of notes as she peremptorily informs the undercover journalist of the existence of an alleged link between abortion and child abuse .
“There’s also, an increased statistical likelihood of child abuse”, Annabel said.
“When you have a child you have natural maternal instincts towards the child and there are also natural barriers that surround the child that you don’t cross.
“In order to have an abortion you have to break through both those sets of barriers, basically, and some people can find it hard to put them back in place.”
She said it was a “very low percentage” of people, but that sexual abuse was possible because an abortion “can really confuse relationships with children”.
This is a genuinely shocking piece of footage as much for the perfunctory manner in which this information is imparted – with all the compassion and empathy of someone reeling off a shopping list – as it is for the outright falsity of the information itself. There is simply no credible evidence of a link between abortion and child abuse of any kind, least of all child sexual abuse.
Be that as it may, the Telegraph’s story followed what seems to be the standard trajectory for a broadsheet investigation. On day one we had the revelations, two articles covering different elements of the same “counselling” session in Central London the second of which shows the same “counsellor” informing the same journalist that post-abortion infections are “quite common” and a “study” used by the centre shows that women are “25 percent less likely to be able to carry a future pregnancy to term” after having an abortion , and a third article based on footage filmed at a different centre in Luton in which the “counsellor” trots out long discredited claims of a link between abortion and breast cancer .
On day two, the story moved on to commentary and background information, with the Telegraph’s readers being offered the expert opinion of Dr Kate Guthrie of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) , an editorial by Louisa Peacock, the paper’s Deputy Women’s Editor asking when Britain turned into “Pro-life America”  – the answer to that question will, I strongly suspect, come as a considerable surprise – and even a “listicle” in which six abortion myths are ostensibly “busted” using “medical evidence” . Okay, so the “medical evidence” here amount to little more than a series of statements from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists rejecting, outright, some of the claims made by “counsellors” at the centre’s that the paper investigated, but at least the Telegraph tried to set thing straight.
Finally, on day three, politicians were given the opportunity to engage in a collective harrumph and declare that “something must be done” . Stephen Dorrell, who was at the time the Chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee, told the Telegraph that he would be writing to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, in order to press him to take action based on the Telegraph’s findings while Dorrell’s successor as Chair of the Health Select Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston, chose to call for a review of abortion counselling services and for greater transparency about their funding arrangements and whether or not they are anti-abortion.
That said, in this particular article the Telegraph showed itself to far from averse to including a little misinformation of its own:
In 2011, a bill introduced in the Commons to stop abortion providers from pre-abortion counselling was defeated. The government also scrapped plans for a consultation on whether women should be required to undergo independent counselling prior to an abortion.
Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, who proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill 2011, said in light of the Telegraph’s investigation: “Jeremy Hunt needs to establish how abortion counselling should look.
“We need to go to a professional organisation like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and ask them to develop, on behalf of the government, a non-directional, agenda-free, abortion provision counselling model that we can then adopt into the guidelines.”
No mention there of the fact that Dorries’ Bill, which the House of Commons rightly rejected, would have propelled vulnerable women into supposedly independent counselling services operated, in the main, by Christian anti-abortion organisations such as LIFE and CAREConfidential, an offshoot of Christian Action Research and Education which, at the time, had only very recently been floated off as an ostensibly independent charity; nor indeed any mention of the fact that one of the Bill’s clauses would have removed the responsibility for setting the counselling and information standards for Pregnancy Advice Bureaux and Abortion service providers from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist, a move generally considered to amount to a revenge attack on RCOG in the wake of the anti-abortion lobby’s failure to secure changes to its guidelines that were favourable to its agenda.
And there the Telegraph’s “Abortion Scandal” story ends. After three days of coverage, both the newspaper and the news-cycle moved on leaving behind a series of unanswered questions…
– Who are the people behind these anti-abortion “Crisis Pregnancy” centres?
– How are they funded and how long have they been operating?
– Do they confine their activities solely to the provision of so-called “counselling” or is there more to some of these organisations?
…and a rather bland and non-committal response from the Department of Health which does nothing to inspire confidence that any of the MPs calls for further action will be taken on board:
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The provision of non-judgemental counselling about abortion is clearly important. It is for NHS providers to ensure that the services they recommend meet this need.”
Ordinarily that would be the end of the story were it not for the fact that, earlier this year, I decided to take a closer look at the Telegraph’s exposé for myself and try to address some of the many questions that the paper left hanging in the wind when it moved on.
The result of this decision, which you’ll be able to read over the course of several articles, starting on Monday,, has been a five-month investigation involving more than sixty Freedom of Information requests and an extensive trawl through public documents and other sources stretching back almost sixteen years just to tell full the story of just one of the centre’s featured in the Telegraph’s own investigation; a centre which operated, at the time under the name the “Central London Women’s Centre”.
What emerged from that investigation was a story that is altogether more disturbing than anything the Telegraph was either willing or able to uncover, one which shows that this one centre, which has operated from two different addresses in Central London since the late 1990s and under at least five different names, has been the subject of at least five separate undercover investigations since 2005, including the most recent one by the Telegraph, each of which has uncovered clear evidence of “counsellors” providing vulnerable women with grossly misleading and inaccurate information about the alleged risks associate with abortion.
It has also, in just the last three years, twice been the subject of formal adjudications by the Advertising Standards Authority found that the same organisation in breach of its Code of Advertising Practice, albeit under different trading names on each occasion.
Starting on Monday – if you can bear the suspense – you’ll discover the identity of the Roman Catholic charity that owns and operate this particular centre and the identities of the key individuals responsible for running both the charity and the centre..
You’ll be shown evidence which demonstrates that the Charity has incorporated false information into Trustees reports filed with the Charity Commission and how a lack of transparency in the charity’s accounting practices strongly suggests that the charity may have been concealing unauthorised Trustee benefits from the ‘Charity Commission for a considerable period of time, benefits which are impermissible under both Charity law and the Charity’s own governing document.
I’ll be looking, again, at some of this organisation’s more unusual and wholly disreputable “counselling” practices – as revealed by some of the earlier undercover investigations into its activities – and providing clear evidence not only of its explicitly religious, anti-abortion, character but also of the extremely dubious sources of information and “evidence” it relies upon when providing grossly misleading information to vulnerable women.
You will also be shown how, for at least eight years – and for at least part of that of that time with the active support and complicity of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster – this same charity operated an unlicensed and wholly unregulated home/hostel for vulnerable pregnant women and women with newborn babies in London (and a second such “home” outside the capital) without – so it appears – ever notifying any of their local statutory agencies – i.e. local authority, local adult/children’s service, local safeguarding board, etc. – of their activities.
You’ll also see how, in the case of at least one of these “homes” this ceased only after the charity was served with a planning enforcement notice by the London borough in which the “home” was located and you’ll be shown evidence which shows that the charity at least claims to be actively involved in the provision of services and accommodation to vulnerable women whose immigration status is – shall we say – less than certain, again without ever appearing to have notified any of the relevant authorities – i.e. the Home Office/Borders Agency – of their activities.
And, if that wasn’t enough to be going on with, you’ll also see how, for a period of two years, this same organisation openly advertised and operated an unlicensed and unregulated foetal ultrasound scanning service from its Central London office, using staff who appear to have no medical qualifications whatsoever, and how, after this was brought to the attention of the relevant regulator – the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the CQC chose not to mount a prosecution under section 10 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (which allows for a maximum sentence of a fine of up to £50,000 and up to 12 months imprisonment for failing to register a regulated activity) despite carrying out a “raid” on the centre’s premises in February 2014 which which turned up clear and unequivocal evidence of the centre’s activities including completed “consent” forms and ultrasound scan images spanning a two-year period from August 2011 to August 2013.
Finally, I’ll be exposing this organisation’s ongoing links to the founder of a notorious Crisis Pregnancy Centre in the Irish Republic; a man who, in 1999, narrowly avoided prosecution after he was found by the Irish High Court to have played a leading role in an attempt to arrange an illegal private adoption of a newborn baby and who, after seemingly lying low for a number of years, has recently re-entered the “abortion advice” business in the Irish Republic.
The story I have to tell here is not, as some would suggest, that of a “rogue” organisation but rather one of an organisation that has been systematically pursuing an explicitly religious anti-abortion agenda rooted squarely in Roman Catholic dogma since the late 1990’s and going to considerable lengths to conceal this agenda from vulnerable women who are seeking independent and impartial support, advice and counselling while facing what for them may be a difficult choice as to whether to terminate an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy or carry that pregnancy to term, even to the extent of changing the name of the centre on a number of occasions, almost always in the wake of adverse publicity surrounding its activities and “counselling” practices.
It is also the story of regulatory system that, for a variety of reasons, utterly fails of afford vulnerable women any significant degree of protection from the predatory and manipulative activities of this and other similar organisations dotted around the UK even, in some cases, when those activities are brought to the attention of the relevant regulatory authority. It is a system that has been so full of holes that it has possible for this organisation to operate for close to seventeen years without anyone ever taking the time to fully investigate its activities or subject them to detailed public scrutiny.
Monday Tuesday that’s going to change, not because of an undercover investigation by a mainstream press organisation or because any of the regulators have stepped up to the plate and taken action (yet) or even because any politicians have made good on their assertion that “something must be done” but just because a blogger has taken the time and trouble to join the dots and piece together the full story.
 Daily Telegraph, “Abortion scandal: women told ‘terminations increase chance of child abuse’,” 10 February 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10622815/Abortion-scandal-women-told-terminations-increase-chance-of-child-abuse.html. [Accessed June 2014].
 Daily Telegraph, “Abortion scandal: ‘abortions increase chance of infertility’, claims counsellor,” 10 February 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10622839/Abortion-scandal-abortions-increase-chance-of-infertility-claims-counsellor.html. [Accessed June 2014].
 Daily Telegraph, “Abortion scandal: ‘abortions increase breast cancer risk’, claims counsellor,” 10 February 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10622816/Abortion-scandal-abortions-increase-breast-cancer-risk-claims-counsellor.html. [Accessed June 2014].
 Daily Telegraph, “Gynaecologist: ‘no evidence’ for abortion sex abuse claims,” 11 February 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10629553/Gynaecologist-no-evidence-for-abortion-sex-abuse-claims.html. [Accessed June 2014].
 Daily Telegraph, “Abortion scandal: I’m sorry but when did Britain become ‘pro-life’ America?,” 11 February 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10621491/Abortion-scandal-Im-sorry-but-when-did-Britain-become-pro-life-America.html. [Accessed June 2014].
 Daily Telegraph, “Abortion scandal: 6 abortion myths busted,” 11 February 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10621482/Abortion-scandal-6-abortion-myths-busted.html. [Accessed June 2014].
 Daily Telegraph, “Abortion scandal: MPs urge Jeremy Hunt to act on Crisis Pregnancy Centres,” 12 February 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10632061/Abortion-scandal-MPs-urge-Jeremy-Hunt-to-act-on-Crisis-Pregnancy-Centres.html. [Accessed June 2014].