From Indiana: Words on Fake Clinics

Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is a non-profit organization that operates abortion clinics in Austin, Texas and Charlottesville, Virginia. Currently, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is awaiting a decision from the State of Indiana on a licensing appeal so they can open a clinic in South Bend. To get the latest from South Bend, we spoke with the Director of Clinical Services (North) at Whole Woman’s Health, Sharon Lau. 

Fake women’s health centers (also known as crisis pregnancy centers) outnumber abortion clinics in the United States by a margin of at least 3 to 1. These centers pose as comprehensive reproductive health clinics with the goal and mission of shaming and deceiving women to keep them from having abortions. They purposely locate next to or very near abortion clinics and choose names meant to confuse and mislead patients.

Like many clinics that actually provide abortion care, Whole Woman’s Health has direct experience with these fake clinics.

We could tell story after story of what women have shared with us regarding their experiences at these centers, but here is just one recent account.

Women’s Care Center (WCC), an organization with more than 20 fake women’s health centers in 11 states, operates a center directly next door to the Whole Woman’s Health (WWH) Clinic in Peoria, IL.

A couple came into our clinic and told our staff that they had mistakenly gone to WCC. Staff at WCC made them think they were in the right place and separated the couple. They performed an ultrasound on the women and when she felt something wasn’t right and tried to confirm that she was there for an abortion, the WCC employee said they needed to talk more. She then put the couple in front of a large screen with a photo of their ultrasound and stickers on it saying “hi mommy” and “hi daddy.”

When they eventually made it to WWH, the husband asked our staff why they (WCC) are allowed to be so close and make people think they are in the right place?  Why indeed? Because WCC and other organizations like theirs don’t actually want women to make their own decisions about important health care questions but instead want to mislead and shame them into continuing their pregnancy no matter what.  Unfortunately, stories like these are not unique.  This is the designed strategy of fake women’s health centers across the country.

We are in the process of opening a clinic in South Bend, Indiana and purchased a commercial building uniquely suited to our needs after multiple landlords refused to rent to us. Not long after, Women’s Care Center (WCC) purchased a residential property directly next door to our building.

They sought to have the building re-zoned for commercial use so they could open one of their centers, claiming they only wanted women in the neighborhood to have options and easy access to care.  Not only does WCC already have 5 centers in South Bend and the surrounding communities, an anonymous donor gave the money for the project with the expressed condition that their center be located next door to WWH.

WCC could have purchased one of the numerous vacant buildings in the same neighborhood, with the same access for the women in the area, that was already zoned for commercial use. Instead they chose to purchase a building that was not already vacant and was not zoned for their needs.

The community fought back, and with the help of courageous Common Council members and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, they won. The re-zoning was ultimately denied.

Throughout the process, WCC touted their support of and respect for women, all the while denying that their purpose in trying to locate next door to WWH had anything to do with confusing women. Their argument was blatantly disingenuous. This choice was a clear indication that more than anything else, their priority was to be directly next door to Whole Woman’s Health (WWH), where we know from experience with other WCC sites, it would be designed to confuse and mislead women.

Shortly after the re-zoning denial, WCC announced that they were purchasing a commercially-zoned property directly across the street from WWH. While we are not surprised, we are disappointed by the persistence from an unlicensed, non-medical provider to continue to try to dissuade and shame patients from coming to receive our health care services.

We hope that Women’s Care Center fulfills their assurances not to engage in the types of deceptive practices that we have previously experienced, but we are not optimistic.

At Whole Woman’s Health Alliance we trust women to weigh their situation and their options and come to the decision that is best for them. We create a welcoming, nonjudgmental space, provide high-quality medical care and understand that women are the experts in their own lives about whether and when to have children.

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