A truck that sits outside the Homer Babbidge Library and offers free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds every week is raising controversy with University of Connecticut students because of the program’s pro-life affiliations.
The truck, which is sponsored by faith-based Women’s Center of Eastern Connecticut, MobileCare (Caring Families Pregnancy Services, Inc.) and the UConn Students for Life, is part of the student organization’s effort to give women the options they need, according to Uconn Students for Life secretary and incoming president Meghan Plourde.
“In my mind, the truck is a free service, and you can choose whether or not you want to use it,” Plourde said. “If a woman wants to go to a Planned Parenthood, that is her choice. If she wants to use our truck, that is fine, too. I hope that people can respect whatever way the woman chooses.”
On April 12, fourth-semester mathematics major Matthew Nota posted in the Buy or Sell UConn Tickets Facebook group questioning the legitimacy and presence of the group given their pro-life base.
“It is an embarrassment for the university to allow fraudulent medical ‘professionals’ on campus that deceive women during the moss stressful moment of their life,” Nota said.
Miranda Sommer, eighth-semester mechanical engineering major, said she is skeptical of the van because of its goals and how she was treated by a Students for Life member who lived next to her last year.
“Turns out, I faced constant criticism of my own religious views, and was told I was 'not a good Catholic'—hurtful because religion is important to my cultural identity even if it doesn't match the most conservative teachings,” Sommer said. “In conversations about abortion, she (a Student for Life member) often sent me videos comparing the practice to the Holocaust, which is completely disrespectful to a horrible tragedy that ended in so many killed.”
Sommer said she believes there is no place for religion or faith in helping women make a decision about what they would like to do medically in the face of an unplanned pregnancy.
“I believe that if you need to refer to God in order to defend your public policy decisions, which is a hallmark of the pro-forced-birth movement, then you have absolutely no business writing policy to begin with,” Sommer said. “We are not in a theocracy and should not be governed by religious values.”
Nicole Tomasseti, a ‘17 political science and ‘18 Master’s in public policy graduate, said there is currently a bill in the state legislature, H.B. No. 7070, that would stop the practices she believes the van is conducting.
“My concern is that women who need medical help are often misled by non-profits that represent themselves as health clinics,” Tomasseti said. “And that there is currently a bill in the state legislature that would restrict these practices by fining organizations that misrepresent their intentions.”
H.B. No. 7070 was introduced by the Public Health Committee in the House and aims to prohibit limited pregnancy crisis centers from falsely advertising their services.
The controversy and criticism toward the van and the pro-life organization is extremely unfounded and inaccurate, according to fourth-semester physiology and neurobiology major Evelyn Michael.
“She (one of the nurses) made it very clear that they were not there to push people in any direction,” Michael said. “Their only job was to administer pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and to lay out the risks and benefits of all options available to the women receiving care. That's it. Every woman who used the van today expressed having had a very positive, straightforward experience.”
Students in the Buy or Sell Facebook page said they also received fliers and brochures that tried to push them not to get an abortion and to consider other options, which Michael said is entirely untrue given her own experiences with the van.
“The booklet and fliers, which I flipped through, contained info about STDs, various birth control methods and the medical facts of what pregnancy and abortion both entail for a woman's health,” Michael said. “Looked pretty comprehensive and thorough to me. Not a single person there was forcing anyone into abstinence or pressuring anyone to not have an abortion.”
Jeremy Bradley, the Executive Director of Caring Families, said as an organization, he and the staff onboard the van must provide women with as holistic of an experience as possible.
“Because we are a faith-based organization our core values and beliefs prohibit us from pressuring or misleading a woman about anything, including her pregnancy and options,” Bradley said. “We offer an opportunity to talk and share information with any client that comes aboard our MobileCare van. We are comfortable discussing any of her options, including abortion, and make ourselves available to her as a resource if she wants to learn more about parenting and adoption or getting connected with other services.”
Bradley said that although the organization will not move forward in helping women find abortion support services, they are willing to help women make an informed decision in the case of an unplanned pregnancy.
“If any woman contacts us, whether in person, over email or on the phone, and asks us to perform an abortion—we are clear with her that we do not perform or refer for abortion,” Bradley said. “We provide free practical resources, information and emotional support to women—no matter what choice they make.”
Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.