Women seeking terminations were told that abortions could lead to breast cancer by an extremist anti-abortion group endorsed by the NHS. The South West London and St George’s NHS trust has been recommending patients to the London-based group the Good Counsel Network, later known as GCN, via leaflets and its website for five years.
The organisation sent anti-choice campaigners, called “pavement counsellors”, to picket abortion clinics where they showed women plastic models of foetuses, and had been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading claims. Yet until recently the GCN was described on an NHS website as “a leading organisation in the field of mental health”.
This week, Channel 4’s Dispatches will expose the GCN’s practices in a programme fronted by Cathy Newman, revealing how women are left feeling harassed, intimidated and deeply upset by the tactics of the group. Newman says her own experience of abortion – she had a termination after finding out that the baby she was carrying had a fatal foetal abnormality – was hugely upsetting, and hopes that the programme will highlight how distressing anti-abortion messaging is. “I found having an abortion hugely upsetting,” she writes. “And I can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been if I’d had to run the gauntlet of protesters, questioning my decision, issuing me with misleading advice about the medical risks of terminating, showing me gruesome pictures of aborted foetuses, or comparing abortion to the Holocaust.”
Undercover: Britain's Abortion Extremists is on Wednesday at 11pm on Channel 4.