By Elinor Reilly
Anyone who read the op-ed entitled “Clearing the Way for Clearway Clinic,” by Carly Priest ’18 in last week’s The Crusader might be wondering the following: why do we need crisis pregnancy centers? Why are there flyers in the bathrooms advertising their services, as well as those of Project Rachel, which offers support to those who have had an abortion? After all, a reasonable person might conclude, we have Planned Parenthood. Shouldn’t all centers offering health services and/or resources be expected to provide access to the same things, such as birth control and sex education?
This line of thinking seems to make perfect sense at first glance. But then it leads one to wonder: why do hospitals even bother to specialize in different areas? Why can’t you go to any social service agency and get the same results? Why doesn’t the soup kitchen stop worrying about feeding those in need and start giving classes on how to manage food budgets? The answer is simple: different needs have different solutions. In America and at Holy Cross, we often speak of the value of diversity. This certainly includes diversity of people. We also embrace the importance of being surrounded by different cultures, having options on where to shop; different political parties (even when they disappoint us); and different places to get help. To assume that all pregnant women in need want abortions and birth control reduces them to nothing but a caricature and ignores some people in order to fit a certain narrative. These ignored individuals include women who want to keep their child, want to place their child for adoption, or choose not to use birth control—maybe because of their religious beliefs, or maybe because they wanted to get pregnant and now need some help along the way. Some may not feel comfortable at an organization such as Planned Parenthood, which, according to its most recently available (2014-15) annual report, performed 323,999 abortions but provided a mere 2,024 adoption referrals in a year (www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/annual-report). These women’s choices matter, too.
Clearway Clinic is not a Catholic organization, and I cannot speak to the views of the center on contraception. Regardless, if they choose not to give out free condoms with their free ultrasounds, that is entirely within their right. Clearway Clinic and similar centers have no moral or legal obligation to provide private pharmaceutical consultations, contraception, sex and STD education, or breast exams to anyone. Putting aside entirely the morality of contraception or its effectiveness, all those things are available elsewhere in Worcester. Aside from Planned Parenthood, other federally qualified health centers such as the Family Health Center of Worcester (www.fhcw.org) provide these services on a sliding scale system. What Clearway does do, as Carly rightly observes, is provide free ultrasounds, free pregnancy tests, and free STD tests by licensed doctors and nurses. They also offer ongoing support throughout and after a woman’s pregnancy. They are free, confidential, and don’t require health insurance. To expect Clearway to change who they are and to go so far as to be angry that they don’t give condoms and sex education to already-pregnant women doesn’t make sense.
Like Carly, I am not angry that Clearway “provides counseling to women who have had abortions and reach [out] to them for help.” Whether one is pro-choice or pro-life, we should all be able to acknowledge that abortion is not an easy thing, physically, mentally, or emotionally. Women who have had abortion can and do have a variety of emotions about it, and some might regret their decision later. Anecdotally, I have met women who do regret having an abortion. Telling them that their feelings and emotions are invalid helps no one. Project Rachel, which some of the aforementioned flyers also advertise for, also assists women who desire support after an abortion. The text of the Project Rachel flyers read “I had an abortion, and I feel (ambivalent/confused/relieved/nothing/scared/unsure/angry/numb/sad).” It concludes with the words “No matter what you are feeling, you are not alone,” along with their phone number and website. There are also flyers posted in men’s and unisex bathrooms that read “She had an abortion, and I feel (ambivalent/confused/relieved/nothing/scared/unsure/angry/numb/sad).” This is a mission everyone should be able to support out of their compassion and love for each other. Women who would like support and help in healing after an abortion deserve it every bit as much as women who desire healing from any other event in her life.
Some readers may have reached the end of this piece and are wondering what all the fuss is about, not having seen any of these flyers around campus. If you’ve recently been in a bathroom stall in an academic building on campus and there wasn’t a flyer there, it is likely because the flyer was removed by someone who disagreed with its message. So often I hear abortion spoken of as one choice among many available to pregnant women, which is why it seems particularly disingenuous when there is a blatant attempt to limit knowledge of these choices. Personally, I believe that life begins at conception. This means that I believe that abortion ends a human life and I do not support it being a choice any more than I support anything else that ends a human life. Not everyone agrees with this, of course. Recognizing that choice is the emphasis for many, I cannot help but wonder how can anyone call themselves pro-choice when they freely admit that some choices are inferior to others and should be hidden from pregnant women? This attempt to hide choices at Holy Cross often manifests itself in tearing down or otherwise vandalizing the Clearway Clinic and Project Rachel posters around campus. It is precisely that type of destructive suppression of free speech that makes dialogue around these issues difficult. It is the same logic that leads to laws violating free speech and requiring centers like Clearway to advertise abortions on their own walls. Anyone who is upset by the presence of flyers, which offer information about Clearway Clinic and Project Rachel in a nonjudgmental and nonconfrontational manner for those who are interested, should ask themselves why they might feel threatened or unhappy. We can all agree that love and compassionate options for those who are pregnant should be our goal.