Women need compassionate, comprehensive health care — not lies

Women need compassionate, comprehensive health care — not lies
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As health-care providers who work day in and day out with women, we are deeply worried about the unregulated growth of fake health centers that seek to actively deceive women facing unplanned pregnancies.

These so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” often advertise free pregnancy testing and pregnancy-options education. But once a woman steps into the facility she is presented with factually inaccurate and misleading information, often by untrained staff pretending to be medical personnel, to dissuade her from pursuing an abortion.

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From Harlem to Hartford, there are more than 200 of these centers in the tristate area alone. We both work near or practically next door to these facilities. We are aware of how they strategically set up shop next to OB-GYN facilities that provide comprehensive reproductive care, including abortions, in order to lure patients away.

 

We have noticed how they choose names that are almost identical to family planning clinics to confuse women. We have even seen members of their staff open their doors as our patients walk by to bring them into their facility and provide them with false information about abortion. 

On March 20, the Supreme Court heard National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, a case challenging a California law that requires these facilities to provide factual information about the availability of free and low-cost government health-care services, including contraception, prenatal care and abortion care. 

What we hope the Court will consider are the women who step into these facilities, sometimes scared and unsure in the face of an unplanned pregnancy. She may have simply googled or walked by the facility hoping that she would be provided judgement-free, compassionate care and advice about her options. Many of these facilities are purposely located in low-income areas where women have less resources and information about medical care. 

We know the court will assess if it’s legal to actively deceive women during their time of need. But shouldn’t we also ask ourselves is this right?

Is it ethical to allow untrained staff to present women with medically inaccurate materials to scare her away from exercising her right to pursue a safe abortion in a timely manner? Is it just to deny women who are struggling to make ends meet information about government assistance for reproductive care? Is it fair to impose your morality on someone else when they will live the rest of their lives with the decision you lured them into.

 We both went into reproductive health care because of our deeply-held faith. We both revere the right of every woman make her own moral and ethical decisions over her body. We care deeply about our neighbors, and that includes providing them with compassionate care in their time of need.

We both feel an abiding responsibility to guide our patients with compassion and empower them with comprehensive information about the options available to them. That of course includes not allowing our religious views to interfere with what our patients deem is best for them.

God gave us all free will. And that is why we believe deeply in supporting and empowering our patients with the information that will allow them to live their lives to their full potential. That is why we hope others will join us in upholding what is right and that our lawmakers stand up to say misleading women should not be sanctioned under law. It is neither just nor kind.

Dr. Albert G. Thomas is a former Catholics for Choice Board Member and an OB/GYN New York, N.Y. Jamie Beers, former clinic administrator at Hartford GYN Center, Hartford, Conn.