All the proceeds from the sale of tea, freshly baked goods and
locally sourced honey at the front of the building go towards
paying the rent for an organisation that markets itself as “a
place to pause” before making a decision about an unplanned
“I have never met a woman who hasn’t regretted her abortion,
whereas I’ve never met a woman who has regretted having a
child,” Priceless House chief executive Catherine Toomey told
“I wish Queenslanders knew that caring about women is at the
heart of what we do.”
The centre provides pregnancy testing and “pre-decision
counselling” and “congrats starter packs” to pregnant women.
pastoral letter in which he referred to the “shame”, “horror”
and “injustice” of abortion, former archbishop of Brisbane
John Bathersby named Priceless House as an “excellent
organisation” to which people should donate.
The most vehement political opponent
to a recent push to decriminalise abortion in Queensland,
MP Mark Robinson, credited “a lot” of his passion about the
issue to his wife Julie, who works at Priceless House as an
education and advocacy officer.
“It is gut wrenching and heart wrenching stuff, and it has
helped me to really start at the level of how this impacts
women,” Robinson told BuzzFeed News.
“I don’t know names or cases. All I know is my wife is on the
phone helping another desperate woman and I love her for it.”
Toomey insists the centre is “apolitical and not religious”.
Unlike other pregnancy counselling services, Priceless House
doesn’t help women navigate the path to a termination, refer
them to abortion clinics or fund terminations for women who
can’t afford them.
It does offer “post-abortive counselling”.
“People do opt to terminate, but we can sit with the knowledge
that we were here to assist with their journey, and if they
wanted information we gave it,” Toomey said.
“We are here when others aren’t with loving arms to be a space
“That woman is the only woman who knows her answers deep within
her, and our role is just to walk with her and to allow her the
space to arrive at that conclusion.”
A 30-week post-abortion counselling course is run by the
institution’s “founding mother” Liz Preston. She is the wife of
Graham Preston, who became the first person to be convicted and
fined for protesting outside an abortion clinic under
Tasmania’s safe access zone legislation.
Graham Preston, described by newspaper The Catholic
Leader as a “prominent pro-life supporter”, has argued the
legislation – which was designed to protect patients from
harassment – is unconstitutional and has appealed to Tasmania’s
The Prestons were state coordinators for anti-abortion lobby
group Right to Life.
Out the back a storage room is packed with donated cribs and
“Material assistance” – cots, baby clothes, prams – is offered
on a “case by case basis”.
“Women have fears of the material requirements that a baby
might bring into their scenario, so usually it is not pregnancy
that is the problem but other stuff around it,” Toomey,
has spoken at pro-life rallies, said.
She believes abortion is as accessible as “any other medical
procedure” in Queensland and that women are being coerced into
abortions by their partners.
“We see a lot of termination coercion,” she said. “We see a lot
of scenarios when women have gone ahead [with an abortion] at
around five weeks [gestation].”
Toomey could not provide any data on the number of clients at
Priceless House who claimed to have been coerced into having an
“We have internal documentation which is all in a cloud,” she
“We support women through difficult pregnancies which is
something I enjoy doing,” De Jong told BuzzFeed News.
“I am with them in their heart to help women and walk the
journey with them.”
De Jong said she helped women with unwanted pregnancies
“bounce” ideas around.
“If there are psychosocial problems I would be more so inclined
to not advise abortion, because abortion is adding to the
trauma,” she said. “My standpoint is that life begins at
Two ultrasound machines are gathering dust at Priceless House.
De Jong said they “haven’t been used in years”.
“I’m looking at starting to use them. It would be non-clinical,
not diagnostic, simply a play around.”
Legislation to decriminalise abortion in Queensland is
currently on the backburner after it was
last month referred to the state’s Law Reform Commission
but De Jong would like to see decriminalisation “completely
“If it succeeded we would see an increase in terminations
coming into the hospital and that would affect healthcare
workers and midwives straight away and doctors who wouldn’t be
able to refuse to do it like they can now,” she said.
“So if you came to work and there were three terminations lined
up for that day you’d be expected to cooperate in that [if
abortion was decriminalised].”
The Queensland Nurses’ Union, which represents 53,000 nurses,
midwives and assistants across private and public hospitals and
health care clinics, recommended the parliament pass the
The union also supported conscientious objection clauses for
“We support the Australian Medical Association’s position that
women should have access to: legal and safe abortion; reliable,
safe and affordable contraception; information and services to
support adoption or maintaining a pregnancy; and appropriate
sexual and reproductive health and information,”
its submission read.
When asked if she felt comfortable about women and doctors
being open to prosecution under the current framework, De Jong
said: “I haven’t really looked at it from that angle.”
She believes women in Queensland aren’t currently given enough
information before they choose whether or not to continue a
“I think there is a strong push toward terminating and women
need to be told what an abortion is, what the complications can
be and what the long-term consequences can be.”
Australia’s biggest abortion provider Marie Stopes
International Australia said all patients were offered the
option of counselling free of charge for up to three sessions.
“Pro-choice counselling means we do not direct women to a
particular decision but respect her right to explore each of
the options she feels is relevant to her situation,” Marie
Stopes counselling coordinator Trish Hayes told BuzzFeed News.
“Women are encouraged to discuss the options of continuing the
pregnancy and abortion in counselling, and adoption if that is
something they are considering.
After counselling women are given a decision making guide to
consider continuing the pregnancy, an abortion or adoption, and
are encouraged to do a “visualisation exercise” with each of
those options in mind.
“If women are unsure in their decision, ambivalent, or
confused, but have already made an appointment for a
termination at a clinic, we suggest to women that they postpone
their appointment in favour of further counselling or other
services, to ensure that they are as clear as possible in
whatever decision they make,” Hayes said. “Women are the final
arbiters of that option.”
Kate Marsh of pro-choice counselling service Children by Choice
said: “Anti-abortion groups will often claim women aren’t
warned of the risks but neglect to state that abortion at any
gestation is safer than childbirth.”
She said claims of “long-term consequences” of abortion,
including an increased risk of breast cancer or “post-abortion
syndrome” were false and misleading.
“This is not at all supported by evidence, and is more
indicative of the success of long-term anti-abortion propaganda
than it is of the reliable evidence based on health outcomes
for women after abortion.”