These groups state their aim as advancement of religion
These centres are organisations outside the NHS that offer advice to women with unplanned pregnancies. Many are registered charities.
Of the 57 centres identified in a BBC Panorama investigation aired last month, 21 gave “misleading medical information and/or unethical advice” in order to dissuade women from having abortions.
Of the three centres that featured in the documentary, two included “advancement of religion” among their charitable aims. The Scottish branch of the third centre, Stanton Healthcare, previously included “advancement of religion” amongst its charitable aims but this has since been removed.
In letters to UK charity ministers, the National Secular Society said it was “reasonable to conclude these organisations are seeking to dissuade women from having abortions due to religious beliefs”. It added that “it is difficult to see how they are acting in the public benefit”.
The NSS called on ministers to review the charitable status of the organisations in question and to take steps to prevent similar organisations from obtaining charitable status in the future. The letter also urged a broader review of “advancement of religion” as a grounds for charitable status.
Amongst the misleading advice provided by the centres were claims that abortion was linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and infertility, and could cause ‘post-abortion syndrome’, a condition not recognised by the NHS. None of these assertions are supported by scientific evidence.
Footage from consultations at three centres were analysed by a consultant gynaecologist and the Young People and Families Lead of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. They determined that the counsellors at the centres were being “manipulative” and were trying to “cause guilt”.
The NSS’s call comes amidst warnings from experts that the UK is facing a “crisis point” in abortion provision, with increasing demand and reduced access to care in many areas. Without access to high quality NHS funded care, women may be more likely to turn to crisis pregnancy centres.
The NSS has previously questioned why Stanton Healthcare was allowed to register a new branch in Scotland in 2021.
An undercover reporter had previously been told at Stanton Healthcare’s Belfast clinic that she was “too beautiful for abortion” and that a termination would make her breasts “fill with cancer”.
NSS campaigns officer Dr Alejandro Sanchez said: “Women have a right to impartial, medically accurate advice when deciding whether to continue a pregnancy or not.
“We cannot allow opportunistic religious charities to misinform and emotionally manipulate women in order to dissuade them from having abortions.
“Ministers must now act to bring these organisations to heel.”