Representatives of several crisis pregnancy centers in the metro Denver area object to having been characterized as fake clinics by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado in the context of a just-issued U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of CPCs.
"We are not fake clinics," emphasizes Marcy McGovern, executive director of Denver's Alternatives Pregnancy Center. "To call us that is inaccurate."
Concurring are the folks behind Catholic Charities of Denver-backed Marisol Health, which provided a statement to Westword on view below that says its representatives are "saddened and disappointed" by NARAL's labeling.
Dr. Rebecca Cohen, a practicing OB/GYN and abortion provider in the Denver area, and NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado executive director Karen Middleton consider pregnancy centers to be fake if they don't provide what they see as a full range of pregnancy services. They accuse CPCs of hiding their anti-abortion agenda and providing inaccurate information about the procedure in ways that take advantage of women at what may be the most vulnerable point in their lives.
McGovern rejects such allegations against Alternatives Pregnancy Center, which has branches in Denver, Lakewood, Aurora, Littleton, Parker, Castle Rock and the Auraria campus, supplemented by a mobile testing clinic that operates Tuesdays through Fridays.
"We provide medical services under the direction of OB/GYN physicians and are in full compliance with applicable state regulations," McGovern points out. "All of our medical professionals maintain their state licenses, and since we are a privately funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all of the individuals we serve are helped at no cost to taxpayers."
To assertions that CPCs do all they can to disguise their true goals, McGovern points out, "Our mission statement says we provide meaningful alternatives to abortion." (This information can be found in the "About Us" section on the Alternatives Pregnancy Center website.) But, she stresses, "We discuss all options, and we do not financially benefit from any decision a woman makes, which is a significant piece to keep in mind."
Likewise, McGovern denies that her CPCs staffers try to scare women away from considering abortion by exaggerating or inventing safety risks. "We are committed to telling the truth," she insists. "We're a real clinic providing accurate information about abortion procedures, as well as potential side effects."
While McGovern declines to offer examples of what clients are told about terminating their pregnancy beyond saying "Abortions can hurt women," she acknowledges, "We do not refer or recommend for abortion, because that goes against our mission statement. We're not trying to hide it or say, 'We don't know.' We're saying, 'We're not going to be able to provide that information.'"
Services provided by the centers, McGovern reveals, includes "ultrasounds, plus some STD testing and treatment. But full prenatal care is not in the scope of our services. Beyond that, we refer women to other medical professionals."
As for Alternatives Pregnancy Center's funding, McGovern states, "We have about 1,500 active donors, and we're supported by a large variety of people." Some of the money comes from "churches or individuals who would call themselves faith-based. But no one entity gives us even 25 percent of our total. We really are a conglomerate of the community wanting to make sure women are well-informed. We know women are smart, and we have nothing to hide from anyone."
That Catholic Charities of Denver backs Marisol Health, which has centers in Denver and Lafayette, plus an outreach office on the University of Colorado Boulder campus, is definitely out in the open. Likewise, the Catholicity of the word "Marisol," a Spanish term used as a name for the Virgin Mary, makes the centers' connection to religion plain.
According to a fact sheet provided to Westword, Marisol Health offers a wider range of services than does Alternatives Pregnancy Center, including "comprehensive OB/GYN and prenatal care, fertility awareness and infertility care, no-cost or low-cost options for testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, confidential counseling, pregnancy testing and ultrasounds, perinatal support services for mothers, fathers and infants, abortion pill reversals" and "continuum of care with internal supportive services, including housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, domestic violence intervention, employment assistance, early childhood intervention and home-based services."
Last year, the fact sheet goes on, Marisol Health provided care to 821 clients by way of a licensed medical staff that boasts three board-certified physicians with privileges at Swedish Medical Center and Littleton Adventist Hospital, four nurse practitioners and a certified nurse midwife in addition to assorted case managers.
For these reasons and more, Marisol Health objects to its centers being designated as fake clinics, and it's hoping to make its argument in court. In May, Catholic Charities of Denver took legal action against ProgressNow over a video about fake clinics that included images of its centers — which subsequently got a further boost from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here's the Marisol Health statement:
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We are saddened and disappointed that NARAL has chosen to label Marisol Health clinics as "fake" by reportedly including our clinics on a list of facilities that it is targeting. This attack and apparent effort by NARAL to politicize certain medical clinics in Colorado will only detract from the availability of health care, and social and human services vital to women in Colorado. The fact that our clinics are not abortion service providers does not mean the clinics are "fake" or somehow mislead our patients, and it is an insult to the women who choose life-affirming healthcare at our clinics to say otherwise. It is also hurtful to the licensed medical professionals who work at these clinics and provide these critical services.
To be clear, Marisol Health is a small network of medical clinics that provide a full range of women’s healthcare through a special partnership with Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness. Marisol Health clinics are not simply pregnancy crisis centers. Our staff is made up of board-certified and board-eligible physicians, midwifes, nurse practitioners, certified ultrasonographers, and registered nurses. The hundreds of women who come to our clinics every year have access to fully licensed medical professionals, providing life-affirming and compassionate healthcare — which is provided to any woman who walks through our doors, regardless of social or economic status.
Since its start up in July of 2016, Marisol Health has provided care to over 1,800 patients, 70 percent of whom had income under $30,000. Nearly 45 percent of the clinic’s patients have no income or incomes less than $15,000 per year, 45 percent have Medicaid, and 32 percent are uninsured.
We are proud of the work we do, the range of services that we are able to provide, and ultimately the healthcare we provide women every day.