The NHS Advertised an Anti-Abortion Group on Its Website

A link for antenatal classes led to a directory providing counselling to “victims of abortion” from a British group.

The NHS website has been advertising services falsely labelled as antenatal classes from an anti-abortion group, which led people to links for the group’s phone line and “counselling” for “victims of abortion”.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has said it was “extraordinary” SPUC (Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child) had been able to advertise their services on the NHS. It added that the health service should not “advertise ideological campaign groups under the guise of healthcare services.”

The page has since been removed.

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SPUC describes itself as the oldest and largest anti-abortion group in the UK, and has been heavily involved in recent campaigns to reverse abortion rights across the country. It has a history of providing scientifically inaccurate information. 

In May, VICE World News revealed that SPUC has been accepting over £70,000 of donations in the last two years from a donor in the US to campaign in British schools and medical institutions. 

A listing for SPUC was on the NHS website stating that it offered local antenatal classes in Rutland and Melton, a region in the English Midlands. The NHS page carried a link to Netmums, a resource website for parents that has a directory of antenatal services around the UK. 

The description on Netmums made no mention of antenatal classes in Rutland and Melton, but said it instead offered “abortion counselling”. 

“Obviously a group in favour of continuing pregnancy,” the description by an unnamed user read, “but if you are here and have been distressed by abortion in the past, they offer a referral service to ‘British Victims of Abortion,’ offering counselling to women and men.” 

The Netmums page also gave contact information for SPUC and added that parents who wanted to continue a pregnancy but had been given the option to terminate could be referred “to SPUC’s ‘handicap’ division.” 

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This is part of the organisation that devotes itself to supporting disabled people who it claims are being “targeted for abortion” and challenges laws that protect those who wish to terminate pregnancies after discovering certain disabilities. The UK sets a 24-week time limit for abortions unless there is “substantial risk” of the child being “seriously handicapped”.

The page has since been removed both from Netmums and the NHS website after VICE World News brought it to their attention earlier this week.

A spokesperson for NHS Digital said it removed the page because “this organisation does not provide the services relevant to this section.” They said the NHS website uses Netmums to provide a directory of antenatal services in England because it is considered “the most reliable organisation to provide a directory of these services given their remit.” 

After someone is considered a suitable contributor to the NHS’ online directory services, there is no approval process for the content posted. In this instance, the content appears to have come from a Netmums user. 

A spokesperson for Netmums said that the page “clearly contravened” its own site’s terms and conditions around user-generated material.

Katherine O’Brien, a spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is an anti-abortion campaign group, with a history of providing scientifically inaccurate, and potentially damaging, information about a healthcare procedure that one in three women will undergo in their lifetime. They are not a provider of antenatal care, and it is deeply concerning that this group was listed in this category on an NHS website.

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“It would be completely understandable for a woman to assume that this was a group endorsed by the NHS, or in the very least vetted in some way before being included on the site. This is a group with the primary aim of ending women’s ability to access safe, legal, NHS-funded abortion care. It is extraordinary that they were able to advertise on an NHS website.”

 She added: “The impact that groups like SPUC can have on vulnerable women cannot be overstated. These organisations tell women that abortion causes serious, long-term health conditions, causing significant anxiety and fear. We hope that there is a better process in place going forward so that the NHS website does not advertise ideological campaign groups under the guise of healthcare services.”

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: “We are pleased that the NHS and Netmums have removed this organisation from their list of antenatal providers as they do not provide relevant services. We have also previously expressed concern that this organisation is known to provide biased and incorrect information about abortion.

“It is vital that women and people have access to high-quality and non-judgemental services throughout their pregnancy and their lives to support them making informed decisions about their care.”

Tagged:

reproductive rights, United Kingdom, pro-life, women's rights, worldnews

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