Australian Legislators Fight Deceptive Pregnancy Counseling Centers

Legislators in Australia are working to pass a bill that would require pregnancy counseling centers to make their positions on abortion clear in order to not mislead women seeking abortions. A government report released earlier this month found that some pregnancy centers are giving women false information about the risks of abortion, or telling women they are “sinful” if they have an abortion, according to Australia’s News.com. In one such case, a father of a raped daughter called a pregnancy counseling hotline looking for an abortion clinic and was told that he was ” ‘nothing but a bloody murderer’,” according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The bill, introduced by Democrats Senator Natasha Scott Despoja, is reminiscent of US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s “Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services” Act, which, like its Australian counterpart, seeks to require pregnancy centers to comply with trade and commerce rules prohibiting false advertising, according to the Courier-Mail.

Meanwhile, the Australian legislature is considering a $50 million bill that would create a Pregnancy Hotline and a Medicare rebate for pregnancy-related counseling after Health Minister Tony Abbott said that the abortion rate in Australia too high, the Courier-Mail reports. Abbott earlier this year vetoed the use of RU-486 for early medical abortions, a decision that was overruled by the Australian legislature.

The Australian Medical Association has expressed concern that the Medicare rebate plan does not protect women’s privacy Ð under the bill, pregnancy counseling would be assigned a specific number that would be visible not only to doctors but to anyone who would see the Medicare account, such as payment processors and pharmacists, the News.com reports. Lack of privacy is already causing young women seeking abortions to travel far outside of their local towns to access abortion services in Melbourne, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


Courier-Mail 8/27/06; Australian Broadcasting Corporation 8/17/06, 8/14/06; News.com 8/10/06, 8/2/06

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