A number of organizations in New Zealand claim to offer pregnant people advice, support, medical care and counselling. However, many of these organizations leave out one important fact to prospective clients; they are supported by pro-life causes.
According to their own website, Pregnancy Counselling Services is “registered with the Charities Commission as a non-profit, non-religious and non-political organization”. Despite these claims, multiple women have reported representatives from Pregnancy Counselling services expressing anti-abortion sentiments.
April* contacted Pregnancy Counselling Services after she became pregnant with her second child. Her partner had just left her and she was feeling unsure about continuing with the pregnancy.
“When I went they definitely didn’t want me to get an abortion,” April says. “They told me if I did it, it would be with me for the rest of my life and I might regret it. It made me really scared.”
“I don’t think they are unbiased, they don’t want women to get abortions and basically that’s the message they gave me.”
In 2015, Otago student magazine Critic reported Pregnancy Counselling Services staff expressing the popular pro-life belief that life begins at conception, and listing a number of negative arguments related to abortion.
Radio New Zealand reports Pregnancy Counselling Services has received over $300,000 through the Department of Internal Affairs’ Community Organisation Grants Scheme, despite regulations of the scheme that outline funds should not be allocated to religious or political causes. The organization has also recieved funding from anti-abortion group Voice for Life, and in the past expressed support for a petition calling for the notification of parents for people who recieve abortions under the age of 16.
Gianna’s Choice, a self-proclaimed “pregnancy options and support” service, offers a number of services to pregnant people. According to their website, these include “free pregnancy tests, confidential advice about pregnancy options, support after an adverse prenatal diagnosis, free confirming ultrasound, practical help and support, adoption, post abortion recovery programmes, life skills and parenting programmes”. Nowhere on their website is it mentioned that any pro-life interests would be represented in these services.
Craccum contacted Gianna’s choice earlier this month, seeking pregnancy advice and support. We were given an appointment time and directed that this would take place at an address in Mount Roskill. At this same address is the John Paul Ⅱ Centre for Life, operated by Family Life International New Zealand. We were also notified that upon arrival, a pregnancy test would be performed for their records, and were assured that “we are not a government organisation and we offer complete confidentiality”. Due to the COVID-19 situation, Craccum was unable to attend the appointment.
Family Life International New Zealand describe themselves as a “pro-life, pro-family” organization on their own website. It is made clear that Gianna’s Choice is a program run by Family Life International New Zealand, which they describe as “a service which aims to reach abortion vulnerable women throughout New Zealand”.
The organization also organizes prayer vigils outside abortion centres in New Zealand, claiming that “six babies have been saved from abortion” due to their actions. They encourage those participating to engage with the public, and in an information pamphlet state that “only trained side-walk counsellors should approach women.”
Earlier this month, a provision banning pro-life protest within 150 metres of an abortion clinic was scrapped in a voting mix-up during the second reading of the Abortion Legislation Bill. Abortion is now completely legal in New Zealand, however without this safety-zone provision it is likely we will see organizations such as Family Life International New Zealand continuing such action.
It is clear that both Pregnancy Counselling Services and Gianna’s Choice are both deeply connected to the pro-life movement in New Zealand, despite both initially seeming to provide genuine support to pregnant people.
In the United States, ‘crisis’ pregnancy centres have been accused of representing themselves as clinics offering counselling or medical advice, and in actuality pushing a pro-life agenda. These centres are so widespread in the US that some reports claim there are 2,752 of them compared to 1,671 abortion clinics.
The question arises as to how organizations like these affect women and pregnant people in New Zealand. Family Planning offers counselling to women considering abortion, and abortion.org.nz reccomends talking to your GP, Family Planning or Youthline if you want to discuss your options. However, when researching options online, it becomes difficult to tell whether you are accessing a truly unbiased, impartial service. For someone who may be considering an abortion, or is weighing up their options after discovering they are pregnant, access to a free pregnancy test or someone to talk to may seem like an appealing option; especially when many organizations seem to hold no pro-life or pro-choice bias on paper.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the person interviewed