By   /   January 13, 2014  /   19 Comments

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You’re a 16 year old girl living in Dunedin. You’ve just found out that you’re pregnant. You’re lonely, afraid, and you want to talk to someone neutral about what options you have. You do a quick Google search, and find this…


You’re a 16 year old girl living in Dunedin. You’ve just found out that you’re pregnant. You’re lonely, afraid, and you want to talk to someone neutral about what options you have. You do a quick Google search, and find this website.

“Do you just want someone caring and understanding to talk to about your situation? At Family Life Crisis Pregnancy Centre our caring team can help and support you. Our help is provided free of charge and with no strings attached. We can offer you information about your options including abortion, parenting and adoption.”

The information on the website on abortion completely freaks you out. You’ve got a few friends that have had an abortion, and they are perfectly fine, but this site tells you that if you go through with it all kinds of bad things will happen to you.
The seemingly lovely lady on the other end of the phone sounds very helpful, and she asks that before you make a decision, you go and visit the “John Paul II Centre for Life” in Dunedin. Worried, confused, desperate, you make an appointment to go see them.

The John Paul II Centre for Life in Dunedin opened last year. These centres are run by the Catholic Church under the ‘Family Life International’ banner. They say that their ‘non-judgemental service came from a desire to have a physical place where women and girls facing an unplanned pregnancy could come for practical assistance and be given accurate information on all her options – adoption, parenting and abortion’.

Really? Hmmmm.

Pro-choice activists visited this ‘non- judgemental’ service offering ‘accurate information’ late last year. As they anticipated, they were confronted by a wall of judgemental, inaccurate information. And I’m not talking about maybe iffy depends what side you’re on misinformation, I’m talking about downright myth and gross exaggerations.

These ‘pregnancy counselling services’ are not ‘neutral counselling services’, they are centres for emotional blackmail and manipulation. And whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, this approach is ethically shameful.

They supplied so much judgemental, false and biased information that I’d be here for years talking about it – so I’ll stick to the two that really stuck out for me.

First, there is the way out of date and commonly used scare tactic pamphlet – “Never to Live, Laugh or Love”. It’s a made in the USA pamphlet detailing with extremely emotive and threatening language and graphic images what they think abortion is, including for maximum effect full term ‘abortions’ (with pic), and other practices either no longer used, or used EXTREMELY rarely.

Here’s some of the manipulative tactics from this pamphlet:

“Often another drug which kills the baby is first administered, but live births are also common; the baby is then put aside to die.”

Not correct. An ultrasound is performed before the procedure, making sure the fetus has no heartbeat. And in NZ, late 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions are very rare, and only done as a life-saving measure, or due to extreme fetal abnormalities that will not survive birth.

Full term abortions: “As in a Cesarean section, the abdomen is cut open and the child is lifted out while she moves, squirms, fights to breathe, and sometimes cries. While her heart is beating, she is left to die.” (Complete with a pic of a stillborn baby lying on a bench).

Sigh… again… doesn’t happen….

“The abortion pill is administered with other drugs within the first weeks of pregnancy, causing the traumatic delivery of a dead baby.”

This pill can only be used in the very early weeks. It is not normally traumatic – more like a heavy period, and they will hardly deliver a ‘dead baby’ – the fetus is hardly formed and barely visible, if at all.

“Aborted babies bodies are often dissected and sold to pharmaceutical companies or research labs.”

Nope. Decomposing human tissue is considered bio-hazardous and is disposed of straight away – usually by incineration. This is a particularly epic anti-abortion myth based on a few research projects over 30 years ago. It does not happen here.

“The right to a woman’s body does not include the right to destroy the body and life of her baby. The baby has his own rights to live.”

Anti-abortionists may believe this morally, but that is not the law. Personal beliefs have no bearing on what is legal and what is not. Telling this to someone vulnerable or young makes them think they are breaking the law to decide on abortion, when they are fully entitled to one legally.

“Pregnancy as a result of rape is extremely rare….the unborn child is innocent. Adding violence to violence is not a solution for either the (rape victim) mother or child.”

As we know, rape reporting rates in NZ (and the USA!) are incredibly low. This means that many women will not officially disclose the reasons they are seeking an abortion. Also, in NZ, rape is not a legal ground for abortion, which is incredibly unfair. There is no way that any woman deserves 9 months of carrying their rapists baby, nor look them in the eye and try to love them, when they know in their hearts they just can’t do that. Some women can, but I don’t have a speck of judgement for those who can’t.

“It has been proven repeatedly that child abuse has increased since abortion-on-demand became available…. the plain fact is: Abortion, which kills nearly 2 million babies a year, is the ultimate child abuse.”

Mmmm no – reporting rates of child abuse have increased steadily since then. There is no co-relation between increasing rates of abuse reporting and legalising abortion. Also, the pressures of raising unexpected and unaffordable children in fact put them at higher risk of abuse and/or witnessing violence.

There is apparently a ‘forceful movement to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia to rid itself of the elderly, as well as ill and disabled persons’.

What? Who? Where? Where is this ‘forceful movement’ hiding out? Nobody wants ‘rid’ of the elderly or disabled. This is a blatant anti-choice tactic to try and turn those trying to provide individuals with options regarding life and death – with the sole intention of easing pain and suffering – into a bunch of monsters. There is no great conspiracy to dispose of as many humans as possible. It doesn’t exist.

“Avoid the severe and long-lasting emotional scars that will surely result from killing your own baby by abortion.”

The only thing causing emotional scarring is information like this, guilt tripping women into hating themselves for making the right decision for them and their families.

This pamphlet also makes pregnant women and Kiwis assume that ‘abortion is legal for any reason during all stages of pregnancy’. Not true. Abortion is a criminal act in NZ unless it meets very narrow and strict criteria, and is very rarely performed after 16 weeks. It continues to amaze me how many ordinary Kiwi’s think abortion is legal, so effective are the myths spread by anti-choicers through information like this.

Then there was the ‘Teen Abortions Risks Fact Sheet’.

It lists a litany of terrible things that will apparently happen to our 16 year old pregnant girl if she has an abortion. If she has one, she is apparently

  • 6x more likely to attempt suicide
  • She’ll develop psychological problems and likely end up in a mental hospital
  • She’s not going to sleep properly ever again
  • She’s 9x more likely to use marijuana
  • She’s more likely to be injured having the abortion than giving birth
  • She’ll be misinformed in pre-abortion counselling (how ironic!)
  • She’ll be in more pain after the abortion than an adult woman
  • She’ll become infertile and possibly lose her life having an ectopic pregnancy
  • She’s going to get breast cancer
  • She’s 2x as likely as her peers to abuse alcohol, marijuana or cocaine
  • She won’t like children, relationships or parenting anymore
  • She’s at a high risk for anti-social traits, paranoia, drug abuse and psychotic episodes

Sheesh. It’s a wonder 25% of NZ women aren’t in mental institutions, or dead!!!

The one that really makes me sick is the breast cancer claim. How dare they try and convince girls that they will die of cancer if they have an abortion. That just blows my mind. There is absolutely no proof of this whatsoever. It is an utterly evil piece of manipulation.

All of these claims come with citations in an effort to legitimise their nonsense. But if you dig a little deeper into these citations, they either come from the 70’s and 80’s, from journals of dubious reputation, from research commissioned by anti-choicers, or cherry picked and twisted from legitimate studies. As my psychology lecturer always reminded us – you can prove anything with statistics. ALRANZ has a FAQ page on their website where they debunk these anti-choice myths, I highly recommend it.

The core of the issue I’m trying to get to here – is one of ethics, of honesty, of agendas, and what kind of care you would want you, or your daughters to have – whether you agree with abortion or not.

It is not right for these organisations to lie to women. It is not right for them to hook women in by promising a service they won’t get. It is not right that they distribute false information. It is not right to claim to be non-judgemental then confront women with a wall of judgement. It is not right to offer balanced information on all options when the information they give is anti one of them – to the point of blackmail – to win their hidden cause. It is not right to make women confident and happy with their decision feel guilty, a murderer and screwed up for life. It is not right scaring teenagers into thinking that they will die or live in misery, when the vast majority do not.

If you need to make any difficult decision, whether it be an abortion, any other medical procedure, a major life change, a legal issue – you want to, and have the right to be given – accurate, truthful, neutral, balanced and evidence-based information to come to the right decision. These services are not offering that. They should not exist.

As a counselling service, these organisations should fall under the oversight of the Health and Disability Commission. It would be awesome to see the HDC or other regulatory body start an inquiry into these organisations. They are clearly using entrapment and false information to unduly influence a vulnerable person’s decision-making processes.

I actually wouldn’t have a problem if a service started up which offered assistance for those not seeking an abortion. I don’t think I’d even have a problem with a religious-based organisation that provided accurate, proven FACTS on abortion, but still preferred the other two options. My problem is the hook-in, the lies and the agenda. It is very revealing, when you think about it, that these centres have to rely on promoting a litany of myths to win, when they could just distribute factual information, plus provide practical assistance. It smashes the illusion that they care about women and helping them know all the facts, and shows the picture underneath – win the war at any cost – no matter how much it hurts and harms the people affected.
That’s not what Jesus would do, that’s not what our daughters and partners deserve, and it’s not what we should put up with in our country.

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About the author

Rachael Goldsmith (B.App.Med.Arts – Journalism, Nat.Dip – Human Resources, Nat.Cert – Social Services) is a writer & social justice activist from Invercargill, Southland.



    An interesting phenomenon was observed 15- 20yrs after Roe vs Wade in the US, described by Freakonmics author. A drop in crime stats. Have a look. See what you think.

  2. Baza says:

    Very shocking, I hadn’t realized there were such groups in NZ. I won’t be visiting any of the links you posted because I don’t want to support them in any way, I don’t want them thinking of themselves as popular.

  3. And this is precisely why I moved from being anti-abortion to pro-choice in my early twenties. Even then, the amount of mis-information was staggering.

    If a cause has to rely on mis-information, hyperbole, lies, and distortions – then it is not a cause worth supporting.

  4. Danyl Strype says:

    I was involved in setting up and running a community newspaper in the late 90s, which had a directory of community organisations and their contacts details on the back page of each issue. When we discovered one of the pregnancy counselling organisations we’d listed was a front for SPUC (Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child – an anti-choice pressure group), we immediately removed it from out listings, and published a retraction explaining why.

    Rachael is absolutely right. These organisations target and psychologically manipulate the vulnerable, and they deserve no more assistance or legitimization than the Scientologists and their “therapies”.

  5. Ovicula says:

    Organisations with “Family” in the title have about as much to do with helping people as anything using the word “Liberty” has to do with freedom.
    Eric Blair was indeed a prophet.

  6. Muerk says:

    Have you considered talking to the women who have been supported to have their babies by Family Life International in NZ? It would be interesting to see how many regret having their babies because FLI talked them out of aborting.

    The proof is in the pudding.

    • Nikki says:

      Muerk – That is a pretty awful question to ask and no way would you get a truthful answer. You’d be ostracised by everyone if you even began to admit that you’d made the wrong choice by continuing an unplanned pregnancy. That’s if you were even able to admit it to yourself. I wasn’t helped by FLI but I have some thoughts as someone who became a mother quite young and was forced to make a rather quick decision about it. I definitely don’t regret my child but I wish like hell I’d had more information about the reality of raising a child, as well as known that I didn’t need to feel bad about terminating. If I’d had that information, I would have made a different decision. It’s taken a long time (and reading a lot about anti-choice manipulation) to be able to talk about this.

      • Thank you for talking about this with us. No judgement here from me, or from most of the readers of this blog.

      • Muerk says:

        Actually there is an American longitudinal study that does just that – asks women denied an abortion how it has affected them.

        There’s a New York Times article about the study.

        What I was trying to do was highlight the other side of the coin, women who kept their babies because they got practical support from FLI.

        As someone who knows the FLI people I know how hard they work to provide practical help to women in crisis pregnancies and the help doesn’t stop when the baby is born. I know of one case where a teenager was completely wiped by her family after getting pregnant. The baby had Downs and the girl didn’t want to abort so a FLI person took mum and baby into their home.

        Having been to some pro-life conferences I can say that the people there are very sincere. They believe truly that abortion is likely to be harmful to women who choose it. Their facts may be wrong (I’m not a doctor so I’m not judging here, all medical procedures have risks but pregnancy is risky as well), but they believe them sincerely. They aren’t lying.

        Personally I disagree with abortion on philosophical and moral grounds. Abortion could be 100% safe for women 100% of the time and I would still vehemently disagree with it.

        However… are there pro-abortion-choice pregnancy centres to help women who choose to have their babies? Do pro-choice people organise practical support for mums who decided not to abort or who are pressured to abort? If you don’t like what FLI do, then do it better yourselves.

        Also you miss the quiet work of chaplains who help women who have abortions. A Mercy sister I know told me about a girl she came into contact with. She was Polynesian and she had an abortion because (and I quote what Sister said to me) her father would kill her if he knew she got pregnant. The girl wanted Sister to bless her aborted baby, which she did.

        The women who keep their babies because of FLI support are often being pressured, manipulated and scared into aborting.

  7. Andrea says:

    Has anyone asked female teenagers what keywords they would use to search Google for pregnancy and abortion information? (And male. Some of them would like to be dads or support their girlfriends, I’m sure.)

    Has anyone looked at the websites of the honestly neutral advisers and seen if they are welcoming for teenagers? Then upgraded them, if necessary, so their users aren’t repelled?

    Is the Family Planning service active on the social media sites? Or other places where girls gather?

    Are there health services at schools who can mention the FPS? Do the Citizens Advice Bureaux supply this information?

    Some in the anti-abortion movement believe the ends justify the means – and the means used are vile. So how do we ensure that desperate and unwilling parents in waiting can get through the minefields, straight to help and advice as soon as possible without ever meeting the damning ones of any sect or religion?

    They won’t change their beliefs easily. It’s near-futile to try. So let’s make the path to safe, true information as easy as we can, eh?

  8. annie says:

    What saddens me about this debate is how polarised it is. Either you are ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’. And if you are ‘pro-life’, chances are you are not in favour of womens’ rights or contraception or the welfare state etc. And if you are ‘pro-choice’, then chances are you believe in the welfare state, want to see child poverty addressed, believe in the rights of minorities etc.

    The bit I have never got in this debate is how the unborn are not supported by the left as a disadvantaged minority too. I know I will be attacked for arguing this, but I think it is time that the rights of the unborn were taken up by the left.

    We do not live in a time when an unmarried pregnant woman faces social disgrace for herself and her child by having a child out of ‘wedlock’. And when getting an abortion means a risky back street procedure.

    We live in a time where there is easy access to contraception, and no stigma to children born to single parents, and where there are many, many people seeking to adopt children whose birth mothers can not raise them.

    I am pro-choice, because I believe that women have the right to choose to have sex. We have the choice to use contraception and take the risks that come with that. If our choice is taken away from us because we are raped, then we should not face the consequences of another person’s criminal actions. But if as a natural consequence of engaging in sexual relations we become pregnant, then our rights and those of our the unborn children need to be balanced.

    I can’t see how as moral beings we can avoid considering that the unborn have human rights. How can we say that it is inconvenient to our beliefs therefore we consider the unborn are not living beings with human rights?

    As a lefty, that has always confused me.

    • I’m with you actually. Though I used the word ‘fetus’ here I’m not delusional, they are living beings. I don’t buy into the full on ‘pro-abortion’ stuff, but I am pro-choice.
      I want to see balanced policy where there is not only legalised abortion, but also increased support for women who would keep their babies if there was the right help, or who choose adoption.
      The problem with the ‘anti-choicers’ argument is that the unborn have all the rights in the world, but once they’re born into it? Nobody cares.
      While some of the stigma has gone from single motherhood etc, you can’t argue that it’s now an easy peasy road to take. Our born children need our help, as do the potential mothers who do want to keep their babies. I think the ‘left’ have the best solutions when it comes to helping our vulnerable and we definitely need to step up and look after our mums and kids, so our abortion rate keeps falling.

    • Kathleen Lauderdale says:

      Don’t be confused or worry it’s a Left or Right issue its not a political issue it should be a woman’s personal choice wherever they are on the political spectrum (see how absurd it is to politicize it?). A fetus/child is not viable without the mothers body among other things. All her needs must therefore come first surely? Women miscarry all the time should they feel like a murderer or that their body has betrayed a child? No.Is it anyone else”s business other than her and her Dr and partner if she chooses.No. If she chooses to keep a child rather than abort should she get support? Yes. Neither scenario is well supported for women now. All roads seem to lead to damned if you do damned if you don’t we are consistently faced with with society opting in to tell us what to do but opting out when it comes to assisting in this. Lots of work to do…

      • Merrial says:

        @ Kathleen Lauderdale: hear, hear! Women everywhere: abortion is a medical procedure. No moral considerations of any sort attach to it; the same is true of other medical procedures, such as heart surgery or gynaecological procedures.

        It is no business of mine, or of any of the rest of you, whether a woman chooses to abort a pregnancy: it should be her choice, alone or in consultation with her doctor.

        Of course a woman can be affected emotionally by an abortion; in this respect, it’s no different from having a miscarriage (known medically as a spontaneous abortion), an ectopic pregnancy or a stillbirth. Or a hysterectomy! But that is no reason to argue that access to abortion should be restricted.

        Those of you opposed to abortion for religious reasons are perfectly free to refrain from having one yourselves, but you cannot adduce moral and metaphysical arguments for preventing the rest of us who aren’t religious from accessing this procedure.

        The most useful thing all of us can do for other women is to campaign for repeal of the Abortion, Sterilisation and Contraception Act. The law should be silent on abortion, just as it is silent on other gynaecological procedures.

    • Muerk says:

      I’m _very_ left wing and pro-life. If we are going to stop abortion then we need to give parents a massive amount of support.

  9. Merrial says:

    “Some in the anti-abortion movement believe the ends justify the means…”

    Now isn’t that interesting! Yet many of those people will be Catholics – a church which is very big on preaching – in the context of contraception and abortion – that the end doesn’t justify the means. So is this an example of situational ethics, maybe?

    • Kathleen Lauderdale says:

      Angelas Ashes

    • Muerk says:

      No you are right, the ends can never justify the means. There is debate within the pro-life movement over this, for example the undercover lies that Lila Rose of Live Action does in her investigations of Planned Parenthood.

  10. Gen says:

    I’ve had 2 TOPs (abortions) and everything you are saying is correct.
    Google is the first place you go to seek help when in that trauma state.
    There, you are jumped on by a crowd of bullying web pages and incorrect info.
    The thing that really stumped me, was the incorrect imaging and photographs by pro life groups.
    I’m a member of a fab group here in chch called PATHS. (Post Abortion Trauma Healing Service) – a great group to chat about everything abortion related.
    For me, abortion has altered my life – and all in of it in a good way.
    However, it was the right thing for me to do in one of those events. The second, I regret.
    The key to a proper healthcare system in NZ is to counsell women in the before during and after stages of termination.
    The after termination care here is what’s lacking the most. And yes, accurate info is also absolutely paramount.