Written answers

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Department of Health

Crisis Pregnancy Services

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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572. To ask the Minister for Health the measures introduced to prevent the operation of rogue crisis pregnancy agencies which seek to obstruct women seeking access to termination of pregnancy services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30344/20]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy will be aware, the state-provided My Options information service is the first port of call for someone with an unplanned pregnancy seeking information and support. Professional counsellors can provide information on all options, including continued pregnancy supports and abortion services.

The HSE recommends that people should only visit a HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy counselling agency. A list of HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy agencies is available at

The HSE continuously monitors the situation and promotes the My Options service through a number of channels, including by posting unplanned pregnancy support messages across social media channels, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to signpost the My Options website; radio advertisements and out of home advertising (e.g. in washrooms) at intervals throughout the year; and displaying the My Options campaign message on digital screens across 30+ healthcare locations in the waiting-room network. The HSE has advised that as the My Options website (myoptions.ie) is now well-established, the organic search performs exceptionally well for keywords relating to unplanned pregnancy and abortion. My Options Google search advertisements also perform well, with a high impression share.

The Deputy may recall that in 2019, a disingenuous agency began using ‘My Options’ in the name of their website, causing confusion and putting people at risk of attending a disingenuous service. To counteract this, the HSE issued a statement to the media, reminding people to only visit a HSE-funded unplanned pregnancy counselling agency, and to check for the HSE logo or name if looking for information online. A High Court Case was also taken against the owner of a website, which was settled in favour of the HSE.

The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme has produced guidelines to assist HSE funded counselling service providers in responding to complaints in this area.

In 2019, there were 13,214 calls to My Options and 2,793 calls to the nursing helpline. The My Options webchat service continues to provide information and support in an online setting.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 provides for the protection of the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence through statutory registration of health and social care professions designated under the Act. The professions of counsellor and psychotherapist were designated for regulation by the Minister under the Act and will be regulated by CORU.

Regulations to designate the two professions under the Act and to establish the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Registration Board were made in 2018. The Board was appointed in February 2019 and held its inaugural meeting in May 2019. The work of the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Registration Board is significantly more challenging than for registration boards for some of the more established professions, owing to the different and complexity of entry paths into these professions, variety of titles used, and the variety and number of courses and course providers.

The Board is now undertaking the substantial work required to open the registers for counsellors and psychotherapists. This work includes consideration of titles to be protected and minimum qualifications to be required of existing practitioners applying for registration in the transitional period and for future graduates.

When the Board has opened the register and the transitional period to allow existing practitioners to register is completed, it will be an offence for anyone not registered to use the protected titles. All registrants will also be subject to the fitness to practice process in CORU which provides for sanctions against registrants when complaints are proven.


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