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Students demand closure of local crisis pregnancy centers

In front of a local crisis pregnancy center, student activists advocated for increased access to abortion care on campus.
Image by Amirah Razman
The student protesters want better abortion care on and near campus following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

University of Minnesota students and community activists gathered in front of a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) near campus Nov. 11 to advocate for better abortion care services on campus.

The University’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organized the protest to speak out against crisis pregnancy centers like First Care Pregnancy Center in Prospect Park, which protesters said use religious sentiment to prevent pregnant people considering an abortion from seeking one.

“The kind of talking points that they will usually present to prospective patients is a religious, fundamentalist [and] moralistic statement on abortion being a sin,” said Sorcha Lona, a first-year student and SDS organizer.

First Care presents itself as a place to get pregnancy tests and information about abortions, but once patients are in the door, workers use religious sentiment to turn patients away from abortion care, Lona said.

“They don’t label themselves as abortion clinics; they label themselves as crisis pregnancy centers,” Lona said. “When you hear crisis pregnancy centers, abortion care plans are the first thing that comes to mind, and [the crisis pregnancy centers] do not provide those things.”

First Care refutes protestors’ claims

In an email statement to the Minnesota Daily, First Care’s Director of Client Care Amanda Salmon said it is a faith-based organization and does not force conversations about religion onto patients.

“If clients want to ask questions or get help and support around their faith (any faith), we are happy to talk about it with them and provide resources,” Salmon wrote.

Organizers held up megaphones and led about 20 protestors in chants of “abortion is a human right, that is why we have to fight,” and “pro-life, that’s a lie, you don’t care if people die.”

A few protestors held up signs reading, “Make abortion accessible! More clinics and funding now!”

“[CPCs] offer judgmental counseling, unscientific abortion reversal pills and abstinence-only sex education,” Montana Hirsch, an organizer with the Minnesota Abortion Action Coalition, said to the crowd. The statement was met with verbal affirmations from protestors.

First Care refuted this claim in its email statement, stating the information they provide about abortion is taken directly from the Minnesota Department of Health. The clinic employs licensed social workers and registered nurses that provide support and professional services and truthful information, according to the statement.

CPCs are legally funded by the state under the Positive Alternatives Grant Program, which promotes alternatives to abortion, such as adoption. The grant offers approximately $3 million to crisis pregnancy centers per year, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

However, First Care claimed they do not receive state funding.

“Those protesting our First Care center clearly do not know anything about what we do, or how we go about doing it,” First Care said in the statement. “If these protesters had ever been inside our center and/or used our services, they would know their claims are categorically not true of our centers.”

Speakers express frustration about abortion, LGBTQ+ rights

Hirsch spoke about measures other states have taken to protect abortion access through voting in recent election ballots.

“Here in Minnesota, we re-elected Tim Walz as governor,” Hirsch said to the crowd. “But we have to remember that voting for Democrats will not guarantee abortion access.”

Hirsch also called for activists to put pressure on politicians to expand abortion access and stop funding CPCs.

David Gilbert-Pederson, strategic director for AFSCME Local 3800, the union representing clerical workers on campus, spoke to the crowd in support of SDS.

“We stand with you in this fight to get these predatory crisis pregnancy centers off our campus and out of our city,” Pederson said. “We can’t fight for our coworkers or students if we allow these groups on our campus.”

CJ McCormick of Climate Justice Committee addressed the crowd, and in a heated speech, said the government “want[s] to control women’s bodies and want[s] to control our reproductive health.”

McCormick also spoke about the ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn of Roe v. Wade for LGBTQ+ rights.

“As a queer dude, I couldn’t help but notice that when they announced their intent to overturn Roe v. Wade, Obergefell v. Hodges was on the docket too,” McCormick said. “They absolutely intend to overturn rights to marriage access; they absolutely intend to strip away trans rights; they intend to strip away gay rights.”

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