Responding to openDemocracy’s questions, Heartbeat said “we stand firmly by our Commitment of Care” – which commits affiliates to accuracy in their information and advertising. “Different countries have their cultures and varied ways of communicating, the fact remains that abortion carries risks to women”, it added.
“With love and truth, our goal is to help the client understand abortion more fully, so that she can truly make an informed decision.”
In Latin America, the regional CAM network did not respond to emailed questions and requests for comments, and neither did any of the centres visited by reporters in México, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Argentina. HLI declined to comment.
Meanwhile Marta Lamas, the prominent Mexican feminist, called openDemocracy’s findings “proof of something that we suspected and knew existed, of a campaign of lies and deceit from fundamentalist groups on the right, but we never before had this type of proof”. She said: “I am quite shocked.”
“The problem with these ‘clinics’ is they omit or distort information”, added Regina Tamés, outgoing executive director of the Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE) reproductive rights group. “It’s deceiving women and not providing them all the necessary information they need to make a responsible decision”.
Internationally, Human Rights Watch senior researcher Hillary Margolis called for stronger regulations against misleading advertising as well as government action to “counter myths about sex, pregnancy, and reproductive rights”.
“Every woman, everywhere, regardless of location or situation, deserves the right to accurate information,” wrote MEPs from across parties in a letter to European commissioners demanding “firm action” in response to this investigation.
“Every politician,” added Neil Datta, secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, regardless of their position on abortion, “should be very concerned that the laws of their country are being circumvented through disinformation, emotional manipulation and outright deceit.”
“This is a rule of law issue”, he insisted.
*Additional reporting by Diana Cariboni.