Andrew Smith MP has added his voice to criticisms of the charity LIFE after a counsellor for the pro-life group linked abortion to breast cancer in an Oxford advice clinic. Smith says in this week’s Cherwell that he has reported the charity to the Advertising Standards Agency for “giving the unrealistic impression that LIFE is offering impartial counselling.”

In a report by sexual health charity Brook, it emerged that the counsellor at the LIFE CPC (Crisis Pregnancy Centre) told an undercover reporter, “The only other thing that has been reported with quite strong evidence is the increase in the possibility of breast cancer following termination of the pregnancy.”

This is despite the fact that a 2008 report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists concluded that, “induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.”

The same Oxford counsellor is also recorded as telling a woman, “It is possible that you will be on your own when you abort your baby, you know, possibly in the toilet, that’s what usually happens,” which Anne Scanlan, spokesperson for LIFE, has since described as “ill-advised,” adding, “if this counsellor was not asked about that and offered it up without prompt, then that is against our policy.”

CPCs such as the LIFE Oxford Centre, which has advertised on Oxford buses, are intended to only give advice and are independent of the NHS. Consequently they are unregulated by the same standards as the health services. LIFE themselves state on their website, in response to a Telegraph article that revealed many similar practices in CPCs, “There is a time and a place for discussing the potential health consequences of abortion… but this must be strictly evidence based.”

Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of Brook said, “It is simply immoral and unacceptable to masquerade as a service that helps clients make decisions through exploring choices, when the reality is – as this report based on young women’s experience shows – at some CPCs you will get a mixture of misinformation, coercion, and fright tactics”.

LIFE claims on their website that they give “as much practical, financial, and emotional support as is necessary to help them bring their pregnancy to term.” Although unregulated by health commissioners, they are still subject to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s Ethical Framework, which states that, “Practitioners should not allow their professional relationships with clients to be prejudiced by any personal views they may hold.”

Sarah Pine, OUSU Woman’s Officer, pointed to other available resources in her response to the report, “Women are only free if they have control over their own bodies. Reproductive rights are crucial because they enable women to gain independence from their partners, and have a life outside of childbearing and rearing. Groups that intentionally mislead women in order to prevent them from accessing these services are making decisions for them. We can do better than that.

“OUSU’s Student Advice Service is completely non-directive, and so won’t tell anyone what is the best choice for them. If anyone is concerned about unplanned pregnancy, we can outline what the options are and how to go about them, and leave the choice up to the student. You can reach them at advice@ousu.org.”

LIFE told Cherwell, “We are investigating the incident and will take appropriate action.”

Brook has called for a full scale redevelopment of the CPC service.