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The deceptive websites trying to trick women out of having abortions.

“There is a danger that it will cause significant distress to women, particularly young women who are perhaps a little bit more naive”.

The website is called Real Choices and it’s aimed at women who have found themselves unexpectedly pregnant.

Sounds harmless. Helpful even. 

There’s a picture of smiling men and women wearing white coats on its banner, alongside tabs offering useful-looking information labelled “resources” and “education”.

The site looks perfectly independent and non-biased — but on closer reading, it makes a series of startling claims with no credible scientific basis — including that “almost 10% of the incidence of all mental health problems in the community has been shown to be directly attributable to abortion”.

“For between 10-20% of women, the psychological impact of abortion is highly traumatic and affects their ability to function as they used to,” the website claims — adding that “the latest research” demonstrates abortion is corellated with a 155% increased risk of suicidal tendencies.

“Abortion is correlated to substantially increased risks of anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use,” a pamplet hosted on its website also claims, as The Guardian reports.

The Real Choices website.

Real Choices is just one of a slew of anti-abortion sites masquerading as unbiased “pregnancy advice services”. As The Guardian reports, another site called Pregnancy Help Australia suggests a link for abortion information that says women  often suffer psychological trauma after abortions but are called “whiners” by “pro-abortion researchers”.

That site also incorporates a “fact sheet” presenting abortion as a decision made increasingly by women “because they felt they had no other choice”.

Another deceptive website, Pregnancy Helpline Queensland, says it’s “a free and confidential service with the sole aim of helping you make the decision that’s best for you with your unplanned pregnancy” — but the number listed on the website is that of the Priceless Life Centre, a Christian, pro-life organisation.

These tactics are alarmingly similar to those of the Australian Vaccination Skeptics’ Network, who until recently was able to deceptively market itself as a balanced source of credible health information under the name “Australian Vaccination Network” — a name they were recently forced to change.

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Since the first place most people go for health information – whether about fertility choices or immunisation – whoever gets to them first is in a very powerful position to sow seeds of fear, doubt or misinformation if they have a hidden objective.

The Pregnancy Help Australia website.

Reproductive Choice Australia (RCA) spokesperson Jenny Ejlak said she was concerned the websites could mislead vulnerable women seeking help.

“There is a danger that it will cause significant distress to women, particularly young women who are perhaps a little bit more naive to the fact there are these groups out there… or really any woman who is just looking for some support.”

She said she was concerned about “the fact that (these websites) advertise support, when what they actually provide is propaganda and a lot of stigmatising.”

In Australia, agencies that don’t take a fee for service are not covered by laws that prohibit deceptive and misleading advertising — a fact that troubles Ms Ejlak.

“It’s the deception that really concerns us,” she said. “They’re legally allowed to tell lies. If they were a commercial business selling a product they wouldn’t be able to.”

The Pregnancy Help Queensland website.

Legislation designed to overcome that challenge was debated in the Senate in 2006, and supported by pro-choice organisations including RCA and a cross-party group of female politicians.

The bill — the Transparent Advertising and Notification of Pregnancy Counselling Services Bill — was intended to ensure anti-choice services were forced to make their stance clear when advertising to the public.

A petition in support of the legislation gathered 15,000 signatures, but the legislation did not pass the Senate.

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