Local Pregnancy Crisis Center Targets Vulnerable Students | News


Pregnancy centers in crisis (CPC) are anti-choice organizations that masquerade as health clinics. Usually funded by the Catholic Church, CPCs attract women to prevent them from accessing birth control, abortion, and other services condemned by the Church.

There is currently several thousands CPC in the United States – and at least one in the U-District.

In response to this outbreak, the King County Board of Health (BOH) requires CPC to disclose that they are not, in fact, health clinics. Large posters must be presented at the entrance of the CPCs, with the 48 point type reading: “This establishment is not a health establishment”.

The BOH recognizes that CPCs pose a serious threat women seeking timely reproductive care, but CPCs are legally allowed to exist as non-profit organizations.

This is the case with Wellness for Washington Women, or 3W, a CPC on 8th Avenue Northeast in the U-District.

Helen Nguyen, executive director of 3W, denies that the nonprofit is a CPC, saying BOH regulations have wrongly portrayed 3W as an anti-choice facility that denies clients information about reproductive health services available.

Patricia Atwater, director of health promotion at UW, agrees that 3W’s legal status is unclear.

“3W looks like they’re not an emergency pregnancy center because they have a doctor,” Atwater said. “And we could debate that until the cows come home.”

However, 3W ticks all the boxes associated with CPCs. Namely, like many CPCs, the establishment has deep roots in the Catholic Church. In fact, before founding 3W, Nguyen worked directly for the Archdiocese of Seattle. However, like most CPCs, 3W denies their religious influences.

Churches like St. Joseph’s in Issaquah, Holy Rosary Parish in Edmonds, and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Burien have raised funds or advocated for 3W. The anti-choice Wenatchee Right to Life group has also rallied behind 3W.

Like typical CPCs, 3W also does not provide condoms, contraception, abortion care, or referrals for these services. Nguyen denies that this lack of care is a reflection of 3W’s religious support. On the contrary, she claims that Susan Rutherford, OB-GYN of 3W, does not provide referrals to preventive services because she has no connection with the OB-GYN community in Seattle.

“My doctor doesn’t know of anyone in this area,” Nguyen said in an interview with The Daily. “So she feels uncomfortable referring to a place she doesn’t have a relationship with.

Long before 3W opened a physical location in 2018, CPC was asking Hall Health to refer students to their services.

“I would like to say that we are constantly in communication [with Hall Health]”Nguyen said.” We want to build a strong relationship with them. “

According to Atwater, communication began when 3W attempted to sponsor a health fair run by First Year Programs and Hall Health. When Hall Health staff became aware of this communication, they intervened and refused to let CPC sponsor the event.

“There is a small community of women’s health specialists in Seattle and they all know each other,” Atwater said. “Our staff knew the way [Susan Rutherford] works in terms of birth control and abortion.

Atwater explained that Hall Health, which offers a full picture reproductive health services, wants to empower students to make their own choices, rather than being “presented with half the picture.” Atwater said this is impossible when students are denied referral to comprehensive care.

Nguyen, however, claims that 3W’s lack of referrals does not hamper a person’s ability to obtain abortion care.

“You don’t need a referral for an abortion,” Nguyen said. “You can go to your computer and say, ‘Where’s the closest to me? And it’s your choice.

It is a misconception, however, that abortions are readily available in Seattle.

“Washington has this reputation [of being pro-choice], but what a lot of people don’t know is that we only have a pro-choice majority in the [Washington state House of Representatives] by two voices, ”said Liliana Rasmussen, president of Huskies for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “So, in fact, we don’t have as many Pro-choice legislature as many people tend to think.

Atwater agreed with the advice, explaining that access to abortion care can be difficult to navigate, especially when pregnant women must find payment options.

“I strongly deny that it’s easy for people – just because they’re in Seattle – – to access abortion care without a really warm and thoughtful referral to a provider,” Atwater said.

Hall Health not only provides these referrals for abortions, but also helps students obtain health insurance or apply for emergency funds. Hall Health only refers students to providers trusted by the UW Medicine system and who are viewed as both impartial and comprehensive. This means that, from an organizational perspective, Hall Health is unlikely to refer students to 3W, as it does not provide any additional medical services that students cannot already access on campus.

Atwater also cited 3W’s lack of contraceptive options, including condoms, as an indication of its illegitimate status. Public institutions in Seattle, including public high schools, have provided free condoms as early as the 1990s, recognizing them as an essential part of sexual health.

“You basically control your destiny with [condoms], Atwater said. “We cannot talk about preventing STIs without condoms… they are among the lowest fruits in terms of contraception and prevention of STIs. “

Despite Hall Health’s refusal to collaborate with 3W, the CPC continued to reach out, sometimes specifically targeting vulnerable students. For example, 3W approached Leadership Without Borders, an initiative that supports undocumented students at UW, last spring.

Leadership Without Borders coordinator Karen Gamez said officials from the Ethnic Culture Center visited 3W’s facilities, but quickly became skeptical of the “Evidence-based” approach to contraception, a loose term used by 3W to describe their services.

Atwater explained that while Medicaid covers Some eligible undocumented immigrants in Washington state, many undocumented students have more difficulty obtaining health insurance and are therefore particularly vulnerable to crisis pregnancy centers that offer free and low-cost services.

“Vulnerable students are going to be drawn to a clinic like 3W medical that is meant to be very inclusive and open,” Atwater said. “When in fact he has this ulterior motive [to] prevent people from using birth control; and prevent people from exercising their right to abortion.

This targeting is what inspired Huskies for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington to introduce a bill to the ASUW Student Senate to limit the presence of 3W on campus.

“We thought it was important that we take action to protect students, especially vulnerable students [like] freshman who doesn’t know which clinics they can go to, ”Rasmussen said.

the Invoice, titled “Students for Comprehensive, Unbiased Medical Care,” originally tabled by the Student Senate last quarter, is expected to be reintroduced to the Senate on March 4. The bill makes direct reference to 3W and requires UW to refer students only to health care. providers who provide “comprehensive and impartial health care”.

Atwater agreed that 3W should have no place on campus, but also acknowledged that the CPC is taking advantage of a serious loophole in the U.S. healthcare system, in which uninsured people have few options for comprehensive care. .

“3W offers low cost STI testing, which is a real need,” said Atwater. “Anyone who has tried to get tested without insurance or good insurance knows it can get expensive, and there is no free clinic in our imagination. “

Ultimately, Atwater believes healthcare must become more accessible so that students and others do not have to depend on deceptive crisis pregnancy centers.

“It’s something that we need as a campus, you know? Said Atwater. “[We need] a better option for students than going to 3W.

Update: There are alternative options for inexpensive to inexpensive STD testing services outside of 3W. the STD Public Health Clinic at Harborview Medical Center provides testing for STDs and other health services on a sliding scale. No patient will be turned away for lack of ability to pay, and all services are confidential and non-judgmental.

Update: An earlier version of this article stated that undocumented immigrants are not eligible for health insurance. It has since been corrected to include information about Apple Health, a state-run Medicaid program that is only available to undocumented people under certain circumstances.

Contact reporter Claudia Yaw at [email protected] Twitter: @yawclaudia

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