It was the middle of summer, and the smell of ripening mirabelle plums filled the streets of Bucharest. Irina Mateescu was almost 18 and living with her grandparents. She had good grades, a boyfriend, and a late period which she was trying not think about.

“Eventually, I couldn’t ignore it any more. I saw a leaflet advertising free pregnancy tests. I didn’t have the money to buy one so I went to the address,” she recalls, 22 years later standing on the balcony of her new office.

The test was positive; she was eight weeks pregnant. Mateescu told the staff at the centre that she wanted an abortion, legal until 14 weeks in Romania, then to finish school. Instead, she was shown Silent Scream,the widely discredited 1984 US anti-abortion film. “They said it showed what happens during an abortion. That the baby, who is already a human, gets torn into pieces,” she says.

What she did not realise at the time was that the leaflet she was given offering support was actually advertising the services of a religious “pregnancy crisis centre”.

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