Catholic crisis pregnancy centre planned

A Catholic ''crisis pregnancy centre'' is set to open in Dunedin but a pro-choice group has concerns the centre will counsel vulnerable women against the ''evils of abortion''.

Family Life International NZ director Dame Colleen Bayer, of Auckland, said it was ''timely'' for the John Paul II Centre for Life to be opened in Dunedin.

Abortions at Dunedin Hospital had increased from 576 in 2010, to 778 in 2011, she said.

''The people of Dunedin have long seen a need for a crisis pregnancy centre.''

The Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, the Most Rev Colin Campbell had expressed ''delight'' about the new centre, Dame Collen said.

She would be in Dunedin next month to decide on the centre's location, she said.

There were two buildings in central Dunedin in which the centre could be located, she said.

The centre would be open in August and could offer help with mortgage payments, new prams and cots, nappies or child care to ''overwhelmed'' pregnant women considering an abortion.

''We make a pledge to help women - regardless of their personal circumstance - every practical help to give life to their baby, rather than to turn to abortion.''

The centre would provide free pregnancy tests, counselling to unexpectedly pregnant women and advocacy for families given an ''adverse prenatal diagnosis'', she said.

Often an in utero diagnosis was wrong and when the recommended abortion was ignored, the baby was born ''normal, healthy and well'', she said.

Pregnant women considering an abortion should approach a ''pro-life counsellor'' to make a ''fully informed decision''.

''We will counsel them, and befriend them, to show them the reality and then they can make their own decision.''

Abortion Law Reform Association southern district spokeswoman Kerri Perwick, of Invercargill, said she was concerned the centre would pressure pregnant women against abortion.

''That is a concern.''

Religious groups in other countries used the ''common tactic'' to open a centre and ''heavily counsel'' against abortion.

''If you are pregnant and vulnerable and you are looking for help and someone is telling you about the evils of abortion, and how bad you'll feel afterwards, then that is obviously going to influence you.''

Family Planning provided pregnant women advice on all options available, Ms Perwick said.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said woman needed accurate and unbiased information on all available options.

She was unaware of a need for a crisis pregnancy centre in Otago.

The increase of abortions at Dunedin Hospital could be because of Canterbury women travelling to Dunedin for abortions after the Christchurch Earthquake, she said.

The Abortion Supervisory Committee Annual Reports revealed in 2009 there were 618 abortions at Dunedin Hospital, and 671 Otago women had abortions.

In 2010, there were 576 abortions at Dunedin Hospital and 652 Otago women had abortions, she said.

In 2011, there were 778 abortions at Dunedin Hospital and 590 Otago women had abortions.

The 2012 statistics for Dunedin Hospital and Otago women had not been published, Ms Edmond said.

- shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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