In late 2012 some FAC “mystery shoppers” attended counselling sessions provided by CareConfidential, in order to find out whether the counselling provided was ethical and unbiased. The sessions were secretly recorded and typed up, and we are currently in the process of going through the transcripts and making sure that any information that could identify any individual person has been removed. Once that process is complete, we’ll post the transcripts here for all to see.
(UPDATE: it says in this post that the Information Standard website doesn’t load. In fact it seems to work in some browsers but not others – it worked for me in Opera but not in Firefox.)
Regular readers of this blog will know that some members of Feminist Action Cambridge are involved in a campaign to prevent pro-life charity CareConfidential from using deception to lure members of the public to their “pregnancy counselling” services.
CareConfidential offers “pregnancy counselling” over the phone and via Internet chat. They also offer free in-person counselling through a network of over 100 affiliated crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs), which are mostly run by church groups. CareConfidential itself began as a programme of the far-right Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) which opposes abortion and gay marriage, and promote “gay cure therapy”; these people hold extreme views which are not shared by the majority of the UK public, including UK Christians. They have been repeatedly been caught giving out medically incorrect information and providing biased counselling which seems designed to frighten people who use their service out of considering an abortion (see for instance The Guardian: Abortion pregnancy counselling found wanting).
CareConfidential goes to great lengths to disguise their origins. There is nothing on their website or in any of their pamphlets to suggest that they are anti-abortion, and their website gives every appearance of offering a high-quality, evidence-based service which respects the right of clients to make an informed choice. One of the ways they make themselves appear credible is through their use of the Information Standard mark on their website:
There’s some good news: CareConfidential has removed quite a lot of the frightening and medically-inaccurate information from their website! In particular all references to the made-up condition “post-abortion trauma” have disappeared, which I think is really just great – for people who aren’t savvy that’s a bit less misinformation out there to trip up on.
We’re still very concerned about CareConfidential’s (mis)use of the Information Standard certification mark on their website. This certification only applies to materiels such as pamphlets or videos, not to counselling; but this isn’t mentioned anywhere on the website, creating a false impression that their counselling services are accredited by the Department for Health. (There’s also an earlier post about CareConfidential and the Information Standard).
FAC believes strongly that anyone who is considering using a counselling service has a right to accurate information about that service in order to make an informed decision.
We’ve been struggling to work out how to best move forward with the Information Standard issue. A Freedom of Information request did not bring any results, and the Information Standard website is broken and has been for months: it takes several minutes to load, if it loads at all, and you have to wait again for every. new. page. or. link. that you click.
Eventually after much persistence we worked out how to go forward with a complaint against CareConfidential, by posting into a form on the Information Standard website. I’m posting the complaint here as well, to have a record of it.
We’re going to send a mythbusting tweet on abortion every day for the next few weeks, and we’ll keep updating this page with the new tweets, along with references and links to additional information.
Abortion Fact #1
Roughly one in three UK women will have an abortion during her lifetime.
The 1 in 3 figure actually comes from a US study by the Guttmacher Institute. Here in the UK, according to Department of Health statistics (PDF), the age-adjusted rate of abortions per year (not per lifetime) for women aged 15-44 in 2011 was 1.75%.
Abortion Fact #2
Legal abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures there is, and carries less risk than childbirth.
It’s important to note that this is only true in the case of legal abortions performed by medical professionals. Globally it is estimated that approximately 20 million unsafe abortions are performed annually, with 97% taking place in developing countries. Unsafe abortion is believed to result in approximately 68,000 deaths and millions of injuries annually.
Grimes, D. A.; Benson, J.; Singh, S.; Romero, M.; Ganatra, B.; Okonofua, F. E.; Shah, I. H. (2006). “Unsafe abortion: The preventable pandemic” (PDF). The Lancet 368 (9550): 1908–1919. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69481-6. PMID 17126724.
Abortion Fact #3
Women can need an abortion at any point in their reproductive lives. In 2010 9% of abortion were for girls under 18; 41% ages 18-24; 36% ages 25-34, and 14% age 35 and up.
Found via Education for Choice’s abortion facts.
Abortion Fact #4
Abortion is extremely unlikely to cause infertility, and women who have abortions can go on to have children later in life.
The exception to this would be in the case that a woman had an infection after receiving an abortion, and did not get the infection treated: in this scenario it would be possible for the infection to have an effect on future fertility. However this would be an extremely rare situation, and abortion normally does not cause infertility.
There are no proven associations between induced abortion and subsequent ectopic pregnancy, placenta praevia or infertility. Women with a previous induced abortion appear to be at an increased risk of infertility in countries where abortion is illegal but not in those where abortion is legal. Published studies strongly suggest that infertility is not a consequence of uncomplicated induced abortion.
I realize the title of this article will make sense to approximately no-one, so I’ll start with some definitions. CareConfidential will be familiar to many UK feminists: along with LIFE, they run one of the largest crisis pregnancy centre networks in the UK. The Information Standard is a scheme set up by the Department of Health to help members of the public decide which sources of health information are trustworthy. Organisations that produce health information apply to be certified, and if successful they have the right to display the Information Standard mark.
The Information Standard website tells us:
To achieve the Standard, an organisation has to demonstrate that the consumer/patient information that it produces is;
Up to date
– theinformationstandard.org/about/ accessed 2 Oct 2012
(As an aside, at the moment the Information Standard website either takes several minutes to load or doesn’t load at all, but you can get an idea of it by viewing the source, copy this into a text editor like Notepad or Gedit, save as ‘hello.html’ and then open this file in your web browser.)
I was very surprised when I saw the Information Standard mark proudly displayed on CareConfidential’s website (scroll to the bottom). My first reaction was to wonder if this was a mistake, but sure enough CareConfidential appears on the list of certified organisations.
CareConfidential simply does not meet the requirements for Information Standard certification, which include requirements that information be impartial, balanced, and evidence-based. CareConfidential is a pro-life organisation which has repeatedly been caught giving out medically incorrect information designed to frighten clients out of considering an abortion. Their website strongly suggests, against the best scientific evidence, that most or all women who have an abortion will experience emotional trauma, and includes a section on ‘post-abortion syndrome’, a condition recognized only by pro-life campaigners, and for which there is no scientific basis.
“The Haven in Cambridge” recently set up shop at Citylife House, Sturton Street, Cambridge, CB1 2QF, offering “information about abortion, adoption and parenting and aim to equip you make an informed choice with regards to the future of your pregnancy” 
“The Haven in Cambridge” is one of many advice centres run by Care Confidential. Care Confidential is a Christian Evangelical organisation which opposes abortion under any circumstances. They are not in any way linked to the NHS, and they cannot refer you to an abortion provider. Nevertheless they have set up ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centres’ all over the UK. These centres are advertised in a way that implies that they can provide impartial counselling, accurate medical information, or a referral to an abortion provider, but they don’t provide any of these things. The people working at these centres often don’t have any medical qualifications, and they provide inaccurate and frightening medical information, with the goal of preventing abortion at all costs.
Feminist Action Cambridge believes that anyone considering an abortion should have access to accurate medical information and supportive, impartial counselling, should they need it.
If you need to get an abortion, or you are considering having an abortion and would like to talk to someone about it, you have a few options. You can go to your GP or to a family planning clinic and ask for a referral to an abortion provider. Or you can self-refer for an NHS-funded abortion by calling the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) Actionline on 08457 30 40 30.
Abortions are free on the NHS.
There is some more useful information here:
NHS choices: Where can I get abortion advice?
“Poll reveals public unease about plans to redefine marriage”  reads the headline on a Christian online publication. This is certainly the impression the Coalition for Marriage has tried to create with their petition to deny gay couples the right to marry. This petition received a flurry of press attention, but does this translate to a real groundswell of grassroots support?
Ben Goldacre (of Bad Science fame) checked out the petition website and found it odd that there is so little information about who is behind it:
But who are the Coalition For Marriage? They don’t say.
The Coalition for Marriage is an umbrella group of individuals and organisations in the UK that support traditional marriage and oppose any plans to redefine it.
The Coalition is backed by politicians, lawyers, academics and religious leaders. It reaches out to people of all faiths and none, who believe that marriage is the most successful partnership in history and should not be redefined.
But I can’t find a list anywhere, in any of the coverage, press release, anything.
Googling the address: “C4M, 8 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1HL” it looks like they are in the same building as the Christian Medical Fellowship and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship.