The government’s commitment to providing meaningful guidance on alternatives to abortion has been exposed as an utter sham. In fact, the ‘support’ that is being offered through the HSE MyOptions Helpline is even worse than that. For the evidence we now have actually suggests that your local takeaway has more staff than the national Helpline service whose apparent purpose is to function as the “first point of contact for women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.”

We know this because of recently received information on the Helpline staffing levels as well as confirmation of the numbers of women who called the service from January 1st to August 31st of this year.

The details were provided to Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath from Maeve O’Brien, Acting Programme Lead of the HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme.

In her reply to Deputy McGrath, Ms O’Brien confirmed that in the time period referred to above:

“The MyOptions helpline received 9,319 calls. 1,643 of these calls were reported as repeat callers to the service. There are on average three staff operating the MyOptions helpline at any one time.” (Emphasis mine)

Can anyone imagine any other scenario in which it would be acceptable for a government to deploy just 3 people as a response to the potential loss of thousands of human lives?

Also, the fact that 1,643 women felt the need to make a second call is clearly indicative of the fact that one call of limited duration is totally insufficient when it comes making one of the most consequential and momentous decisions that a person can make.

The webpage for the MyOptions Helpline describes the service as one that provides “free and confidential information and counselling to people experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.”

That all seems pretty non-directive until you look at their webchat service and you see the first thing they will ask you for is your phone number so they can provide you with:

“Contact details of GPs who provide abortion services.”

The second thing they will ask you is whether you want:
“medical advice from our nursing team.”

This is most likely a euphemistic way of addressing use of the abortion pill.

How is it possible to grant any kind of credibility to this service when such minimal staffing levels are in place? Let us not forget that this is also a service that is also supposed to provide “an interpreter for 240 different languages.”

Are we really meant to believe that women who are in crisis can receive anything like the kind of meaningful and personal interaction they need when given what we now know?

In fact, it is accepted by MyOptions itself that when you call, “all our counsellors may be busy.” If ever there was an ambitious use of the word “all” then this is it.

Women and their unborn babies deserve better than this shoddy, barely existing, threadbare service. They deserve meaningful supports and interventions that can genuinely offer adequate resources, thus enabling them to keep their babies.

What they do not need is to hear a ‘please call back later’ message at one of the most vulnerable and conflicted times of their lives.