The ‘Other’ Choice: Pregnancy Care Center Defends Right to NOT Give Out Information on Abortion
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In the following letter, a local “abortion alternative” organization defends itself against what it sees as unfair attacks.
Cindy Broese Van Groenou, Executive Director of the Pregnancy Care Center and J. Rophe Medical told us she feels there has been an unfair characterization of her pro-life, faith-based organization. She is also concerned about a new law that requires her organization to give information on where women can get government funded abortions. In this letter to the editor, she talks about her concerns.
There have been some negative opinions about our organization lately. Most of those opinions come from people who have never accessed services at our offices. We all know there are two sides to every story. There is even an ancient proverb that says as much, “The one who states his case first seems right until another comes and questions him.” I wanted to take a moment to give the public an idea what we do and why we do it. We understand that people will still believe what they want to believe but our hope is that they will be open-minded enough to at least consider our perspective.
Locally, if a woman is considering abortion, the chances are she will go to Planned Parenthood for her pregnancy confirmation and services. If a woman is planning to continue her pregnancy, she may go to J. Rophe Medical. Then there are those who are undecided. They might go to either place. The choice is theirs. We are two different organizations with differing philosophies. If they choose to visit J. Rophe Medical they can usually get an appointment within a day or two.
J. Rophe Medical is the medical arm for the Pregnancy Care Center of the North Coast. The PCC has been serving our community for over 22 years providing ongoing support to those who choose to continue their pregnancies. J. Rophe Medical has been open since October 2011 providing no cost pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, prenatal vitamins, and referrals to medical and social services.
Currently, we are in a lawsuit with the State of California for what we believe is a violation of our First Amendment rights. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB775 which would require our organization to post or hand out information of where women can call to get information about government funded abortions. Other similar lawsuits have been deemed unconstitutional.
Forcing an organization to give a government message, which violates its core values and purpose, is compelled speech and a violation of the First Amendment. This would be equivalent to making a chiropractor post a sign saying, “The Affordable Care Act may cover an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. Call for information.”
Local city and county attorneys were included in the lawsuit because the law lists them as possible enforcers. Those local attorneys contacted the attorneys representing us and asked if they could be removed from the lawsuit if they agreed to not enforce the law until the appeal process was completed. Our attorneys agreed. It was not a case of us forcing them, as was reported elsewhere.
To help people understand why we oppose this law so strongly one would need to know more about our organization, which I hope to shed some light on.
We are Faith-based – We are registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a faith-based 501(c)3, not unlike St. Joseph Hospital, the Salvation Army or the Eureka Rescue Mission. Some of the greatest organizations in the world are rooted in Christianity. Our love for God is what compels us to serve our community. We have been doing this for over 22 years, never once charging for our services. People might think we only cater to Christians, which is not the case. Of our 3868 client visits in the past 12 months, only 1143 identify with Christianity – less than 30%. We serve all women and couples regardless of their religious beliefs, economic status or lifestyles. We want them to know they are loved and valued.
We are an Abortion Alternative – We are licensed by the State of California and our medical staff consists of Registered Nurses and a Medical Director. We are an abortion alternative medical office. We do not refer for or recommend abortion but are committed to providing accurate information about abortion procedures and risks. This statement is posted in both our centers, printed on our initial intake form and on our center brochure, as well. All information is medically accurate and approved by a board of highly qualified medical professionals.
Abortion can be traumatic. Unfortunately, turning back the clock is not an option. Whatever choice the patient makes, it is a choice of a lifetime. It is not a decision to be taken lightly. But we are here to empower them to make positive choices. We know not every woman will choose to continue her pregnancy. If a woman chooses to terminate, staff members or volunteers who have been through abortion will offer her non-judgmental recovery support, if desired. Some women find they face unexpected negative emotions after the procedure. We are here for her as she processes her feelings, whether it be immediately or 60 years later. We always emphasize the importance of forgiveness; forgiveness of self, forgiveness for others involved in the abortion, and the forgiveness God has for her.
To deny that abortion affects some women negatively is self-serving, ignorant or both. Research is clear that many women do experience unexpected negative emotions following abortion. Whether it was her choice or one that was imposed on her, it is still a pregnancy loss. One does not have to look very far to hear the stories of countless women who suffer from their abortion experiences, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. A simple internet search of Post-abortion Healing will make this clear. If it weren’t an issue, there would not be the need for support groups such as these.
Below are two articles also addressing this topic:
The truth is, we don’t need studies or articles because we meet these women on a regular basis, whether it is in our center, in a store, at the salon, or elsewhere. Society has got to stop minimizing the fact that abortion negatively affects some women and give them a voice. I have yet to see a woman torn apart with grief or having suicidal thoughts over other medical procedures. I will never forget the HSU student who came to see us several years ago. She was completely undone over having an abortion. We sat outside while she cried and said she couldn’t live with what she did. We talked about forgiveness but she said she would never forgive herself. I referred her to professional counseling. We agree with Feminists for Life that say, “Women deserve better than abortion.”
We encourage Informed Choice – J. Rophe Medical offers patients the option of receiving a free ultrasound regardless of what her plan is for the pregnancy. In the past 12 months, we have provided 593 ultrasounds to the women in our community. The patient will be allowed to see everything we see during the ultrasound and may be accompanied by anyone she would like to support her. We will take the time to answer any questions she may have. Whether the patient chooses to terminate, parent, or make an adoption plan J. Rophe does not profit financially from her decision because there are no costs to the patient. We will give them pictures, if desired.
Our registered nurses are trained in limited obstetrical ultrasound and look for three things: They make sure the pregnancy is in the uterus, they observe and record cardiac activity, and they take measurements to determine dating. If they do not see what they expect to see, precautions are given. A significant number of early pregnancies end in miscarriage naturally. For some, this may be welcomed news because it takes the decision out of her hands.
Every woman deserves the opportunity to make an informed decision about her pregnancy. Through science and technology, we know more today than we did 40 years ago. We now know that the human heart begins to beat 21 days after conception (a week after she misses her period) and just two weeks later (5 weeks from conception, 7 weeks gestation) we expect to see and measure the heart rate through ultrasound. The baby is fully formed at 12-weeks and can suck its thumb, which can be seen through ultrasound as well.
We had one dad who was watching his 11-week baby through ultrasound. The baby appeared to be sleeping. We told the patient to give a little cough and the baby starting jumping and waving its arms. The dad was shocked and said, “Wow! I didn’t even think that was possible!”
Another patient, who was considering abortion, made the comment, “I could never have an abortion now, it’s a real baby.” The thing is, it was a “real baby” before the ultrasound. She just didn’t know it.
When I was younger, and pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy, I was told it was, “just a blob of tissue.” I chose to have an abortion. I learned later I was 14 weeks along. It was a fully formed fetus. I don’t know that my decision would have changed but providing misinformation or withholding information is unethical and unprofessional. Later, when I was pregnant with my oldest son, the doctors were very open to share about fetal development. There should be consistency so we don’t feel deceived.
We are 100% Community Funded – One of the significant differences between J. Rophe Medical and our local Planned Parenthood is that we do not charge for our services and we do not receive any government funding. We are 100% community supported. We have never sought government grants or funding and never plan to. Those that support us appreciate where we stand on the issue. They are confident their support will not be used to encourage abortion. Adoption is always introduced as a probable choice in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. Recently, we had a patient who decided to make an adoption plan when she learned she was too far along to have an abortion locally. She stated that she is at peace with her decision and has already chosen a couple to parent her child.
Exit Surveys are Positive – At J. Rophe Medical, we receive exit surveys from our first-time ultrasound patients and their significant others. Patients consistently say we are friendly, professional and respect their beliefs. They also say they would recommend us to their friends, and they do! We had a patient who came to us before going to Planned Parenthood for an abortion.
She said she wanted to make an informed decision and wasn’t confident she would get all the information from the abortion provider. Her exit survey was phenomenal. She still left undecided but thankful we took the time to explain things to her. She said she would definitely recommend us to her friends.
Our staff and volunteers are dedicated to excellence in community service. But don’t take our word for it. The best way to truly know what we are about, and how we serve our patients, is to come in for a visit. We are happy to meet your needs as a patient or just give a tour for those who are curious. Please give us a call to make arrangements for either.
Hopefully, people can better understand why we oppose this law. It goes against our core values and contradicts our corporate documents. We are conscientious objectors, if you will. We are merely standing by our convictions and fighting for them. Not unlike respected historical figures such as Harriet Tubman or Susan B. Anthony. At this time, our board is discussing our options with our attorneys and pursuing all legal remedies.