A few weeks ago, I was running late to class after a long traffic jam on my way to campus. I parked in the garage across the street from Gampel Pavilion and slow-jogged my way past the Student Union on my way. As I walked down Fairfield Way, I noticed a pink and blue van advertising free ultrasounds and STD screenings.
My initial reaction was that of appreciation for the organization that was providing health services for students on campus. I moved on to get to class. Only a few days later, I learned through my internship with NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut that the “mobile care” van is connected to the Womens’ Center of Eastern Connecticut. While the organization provides many services for women at varying stages of family planning, it is also implicated in a bill on the floor of the Connecticut General Assembly, H.B. 7070 “An Act Concerning Deceptive Advertising Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers.” The bill cites “crisis pregnancy centers” across the state and country which advertise care for pregnant women, but do not state that they are religious organizations who attempt to discourage women from obtaining an abortion.
The website for the Womens’ Center of Eastern Connecticut includes a tab reading “options,” whose drop-down menu lists abortion, adoption, and parenting, in that order. The abortion page describes the abortion process in length, including medication and surgical procedures. At the very bottom of the page, the site reads:
“If you were to experience any emotional distress in addition to physical symptoms after an abortion, please make a free and confidential appointment with our trusted and caring staff. We will always discuss all your options and concerns in a caring, professional and confidential environment, although we do not perform or refer for abortion.”
Aside from this one paragraph at the bottom of the page, the site does not allude to its policy on abortion. H.B. 7070 would compel organizations such as the Womens’ Health Center of Eastern Connecticut to clearly present its services to its clients for transparency and honesty. The bill is focused on honesty to the consumer. Many crisis pregnancy centers spread misinformation to their patients about abortion, including abortion causing infertility, cancer, and “post-abortion stress disorder,” a fabricated condition which is insulting to both women and those who are diagnosed with real mental health conditions listed in the DSM-5.
Many female students and women with low-wage jobs do not have very much free time in their lives. Personally, I only have a few hours on Friday afternoons free which I reserve for any medical care if needed. Because of this, an emergency such a seeking an abortion would mean missing class or work for the procedure and additional time for the recovery process. Anyone like myself could easily book an appointment with the Womens’ Center of Eastern Connecticut or another crisis pregnancy center only to find my Friday afternoon wasted. The choice to have an abortion may not be an easy decision, and these centers make it harder for women to make these choices while being discouraged and guilted for making the choice that is right for her own life and well-being in the long term.
Most of the volunteers working at the mobile care van and the center are also untrained and uncertified. They are not beholden to HIPPA laws which protect patients’ privacy. While attending a hearing on H.B. 7070, Faren Tang, a reproductive justice fellow and Associate Research Scholar at Yale Law mentioned this during her testimony overhearing members of one of the crisis pregnancy centers looking at an ultrasound of one of their patients. The disrespect and intrusion on the privacy of this patient was galling.
I am writing this letter so that students can be better informed on the intentions of the mobile care van periodically stationed outside of the student union. Every student should be vigilant in maintaining his or her health and can obtain free, unbiased services through UConn’s Student Health Services.