PITTSBURG — A Pittsburg State University student group says they believe a local clinic is deceiving people who have unplanned pregnancies.
Upon learning about Vie Medical Clinic from a sorority’s fundraising effort, visiting the clinic and speaking to a few people who had received care at the clinic, Pitt State Student Alliance for Gender Equality President Cheyenne Yoakum-Moore created an event on Facebook to encourage people to share the message “#EndtheLies” by leaving comments and reviews on the Vie’s Facebook page and Google review.
The End the Lies campaign was started by NARAL Pro-Choice America to bring to the forefront of what the organization believes are “fake clinics.” Fake clinics, the End the Lies website said, “intentionally mislead women into believing they are real healthcare facilities, and when women arrive seeking care these centers give women false, incomplete, or inaccurate medical information, often from untrained individuals.”
The website said although the organizations are “entitled to express their agenda, they should not be allowed to deceive women and lie about medical facts.”
However, Vie Medical Clinic, is overseen by a physician and has a full-time registered nurse on staff, as well as other RNs who volunteer their time as well as a radiologist on certain days of the week.
The “lies” and “deception” at Vie Medical Clinic, Yoakum-Moore said, regard the transparency in the faith-based organization’s motives during the peer to peer conversations and public view through its website, pamphlets and dialogue with clients. Yoakum-Moore said the clinic is considered a “fake clinic” because of these allegations — including showing up as a clinic when people search for abortion clinics online.
Vie Executive Director Alison Wilkins disputes Yoakum-Moore’s characterization.
She said the clinic shows up in the search because, although they do not perform or refer for abortions, providing “accurate and researched” information about abortion is part of the clinic.
“We advertise the services we offer, we will discuss options — including abortion — with them and will answer any questions they have,” Wilkins said. “We perform pregnancy tests and ultrasounds and we are very up front on our website that we are here to answer questions.
“We are offering that compassionate care and support to every woman who comes through our door.
“We’re not lying about what we do and present complete information to everybody and all of our services are overseen by an MD and we have a full time RN on staff.”
Via Medical Clinic is considered a “pregnancy resource medical clinic” and is affiliated with CareNet, which provides resources for the organization, Wilkins said. The clinic does not receive any government funding, but relies on donations, she said.
The clinic offers various services including pregnancy testing, limited obstetrical ultrasounds, post abortion psychological support, information on several options, sexually transmitted infection testing and parenting programs. The organization has been around for about 11 years.
“At the end of the day, that [abortion consultation] is one of our services,” Wilkins said. “We take any pregnant woman and we offer compassionate care and support for any pregnant woman, whether they have any questions about abortion or not.
“If they have questions about options, that is one of our services that our RN and volunteer RNs and volunteer advocates are trained in.”
Vie Registered Nurse Beth Wienes agreed.
“We want to make sure they are fully informed … they are the ones to make their choice, we are unable to choose for them,” she said.
If women ask about performing or referrals for abortions, Vie representatives respond by saying they do not, Wilkins said.
“At that point women say thank you for your time and we never hear from them again,” she said.
Wilkins and Weines said they provide clients information and follow guidelines from the FDA, Mayo Clinic and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Yoakum-Moore also noted the clinic’s website itself was concerning to her, there is “scary wording” about information regarding abortions which could deter a pregnant woman from considering an abortion, she said.
“Most people see it [abortion] as a last option, if someone seeks it out, they’ve probably already went through a lot of thinking … they need someone compassionate and willing to listen and straightforward information,” Yoakum-Moore said.
Yoakum-Moore said although everyone should understand what they are getting into for any medical procedure, she objects to the abortion information provided on the website, which includes graphic descriptions of the procedures.
Yoakum-Moore said some of the clinic’s clients told her they thought they were going into Vie for recommendations and testing, but felt like they were being “shamed” through the use of scripture in the questions they were asked during the “peer to peer” counseling which followed their check up.
Wilkins said the clinic does not hide their point of view.
“The clients that come in, they know that we are a faith-based organization and we offer it, we don’t force it,” Wilkins said. “It is something we’re up front about so that they do not feel like they are manipulated and if they are not interested then we back off. We don’t pressure anyone.”
Yoakum-Moore said the women she spoke to didn’t know they were going to be counseled and did not feel as if there was an option. None of the women Yoakum-Moore spoke of were available for interviews to confirm these allegations.
“When they sign up for free services, they need to also know they will have a peer counselor speak to you,” she said.
Yoakum-Moore applauded Vie for its services — the parenting classes, ultrasounds, pregnancy testing and STI testing for both women and men which “are super important to the community,” she said, but “sharing personal biases” when answering questions and providing information — which could potentially make a woman feel “shameful” for considering abortion — should not be included.
“I see where they come from [religious beliefs],” Yoakum-Moore said. “But, when it comes to medicine it’s one side that gets complicated.”
For example, she said, when she visits Via Christi — another faith-based organization — for a broken arm, the doctors and nurses are expected to only discuss the condition of her arm in a “professional and medical” manner and not about what choices she made based on scripture.
Yoakum-Moore said scare or shaming tactics include “It may seem like abortion is the solution to moving on with your life or getting back on track. No matter what you choose — to carry or to abort — your life is forever changed. This pregnancy will always be part of your story,” which is from Vie’s website.
Yoakum-Moore said although many will have some sort of memory it will not be something “that will haunt you,” she said, this phrase is often used against pro-choice activists.
When it comes to the effect an abortion has on someone’s life, some people, Yoakum-Moore said, celebrate the empowerment of having the option to take control of their bodies.
Wilkins said they make no bones about their point of view.
“We are a pro-life center, however, we understand that all of the women who come to us come from different places in their lives, it is not for us to force their hand,” she said. “It is for us to offer complete researched information and offer compassionate support and care and encouragement to everyone who comes. At the end of the day we know we have to treat every woman individually.”
Wilkins said every pregnant woman has the right to have all the resources, information and emotional support that she requires and “that’s what we do, regardless of what she ends up choosing,” she said.
“Women are smart, they can get the information they need, they can critically think about the information they are presented with,” Wilkins said. “We are not trying to manipulate, women are smart, they can problem solve and think about the information they are given.”
The student group, SAGE, will be on campus at 11 a.m. on April 11 to provide information on “Fake Clinics” at a booth in the Overman Student Center.
Wilkins said SAGE has every right to their opinion.
“It’s their first amendment right, we are very up front,” she said. “Anyone who has questions, anyone who wants tours … we’d love to give tours and talk to people.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.