by Leslie Layton
More than 30 people gathered Friday outside Chico State’s Bell Memorial Union (BMU) to protest a Christian clinic — Women’s Resource Clinic — that was hosting an anti-abortion speaker at its annual gala.
Protesters, organized by a Mobilize Chico group called “Women on Reproductive Defense,” or “WORD,” said the Women’s Resource Clinic – not to be confused with Chico’s Women’s Health Specialists – is actually an anti-abortion organization that fails to provide “medical treatment” or “clinical care” and has intentionally confused the community about its purpose.
Inside the BMU, clinic staffers, preparing a banquet for some 350 donors or supporters, paused to comment on the protesters’ allegations. Brenda Dowdin, executive director, said the clinic is upfront and affiliated with a “non-denominational Christian ministry” and provides “medical information.”
The guest speaker Friday evening was Marc Newman, a speaker who describes himself as “pro-life” and presides over a company that trains “pro-life advocates.” Newman indicated to ChicoSol that he uses science – rather than religion – to make his argument against abortion.
“I am pro-life because the science tells me where new life begins,” Newman said. “Women should be given all the physical, emotional and spiritual resources they need in order to make a life-affirming decision for their children.”
The protesters described the clinic as a “fake” that takes advantage both of clients and the community. Rae Anne Owen, chair of WORD, said the clinic’s “Mobile Medical Unit” parks across from Pleasant Valley High School and offers free pregnancy tests. In interviews with former clients, Owen said WORD learned that staffers use “really deep shaming” to admonish girls for having had sexual relations after they tested positive for an unplanned pregnancy.
Owen, reading from a prepared statement (see video), also said the clinic holds a “Walk for Life” fundraiser close to the date of Chico’s “Relay for Life” sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Owen says several Chico businesses donated to the clinic’s Walk for Life, but thought they were contributing to the well-known cancer-research and prevention event.
Dowdin refuted any suggestion they had intentionally confused people, saying the 21-year-old Chico clinic has been honest about its mission. “If they were confused about who they were donating to, they didn’t read the publications that were provided,” Dowdin said.
In a May letter to the Chico Enterprise-Record, Dowdin thanks some 16 Chico-area businesses that helped the clinic raise more than $30,000 at the April 29 Walk for Life.
The daily paper also ran a photo of Dowdin accepting a check for $3,233 from the Knights of Columbus Council 1137 at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. That money would be used to train the clinic’s nursing director to operate an Ultrasound machine, the August article says.
In the BMU auditorium, the first slide of a presentation indicated that clients at the clinic receive a “gift bag” that includes reading materials based on the Bible’s New Testament. The slide’s heading read: “All clients who come in for a pregnancy test receive a gift bag:” and a list below the heading included “Bible Promise Book” and “Father’s Love Letter.”
Dowdin said the clinic tells girls and women they have three options for an unplanned pregnancy: to carry the child and parent, carry the child and give her/him up for adoption, or abort. She said the clinic doesn’t provide abortion service, but it does provide parenting classes.
Asked whether the clinic would refer a client out for an abortion, board President Sheldon Hadley responded indirectly. “Women who get abortions can come back to us,” he said. Often, he said, an abortion leads to “deep regrets” – a problem that he said is never acknowledged by Planned Parenthood.
In comments to ChicoSol, Newman also took aim at Planned Parenthood.
The Women’s Resource Clinic website says it offers “Education on Options: Including Abortion Risks, Parenting & Abstinence” and post-abortion counseling. Its mission statement includes this: “It is our goal to serve our community with a Godly view of sexuality and life.”
Guest speaker Newman’s website says the San Diego County former professor has “spoken at nearly every major pro-life convention in the nation…”
Outside the BMU, protesters hooted at honking cars and refuted the allegations Newman and Hadley had leveled at Planned Parenthood.
Protester Sandee Renault is a retired physician’s assistant who has worked for Planned Parenthood and in family planning elsewhere. If the Women’s Resource Clinic and its supporters “were truly anti -abortion, they would be pro-birth control,” Renault said.
“This is false advertising here,” she said. “They’re offering pregnancy tests, but not offering referrals. Counseling should be about what’s the best choice for you, not just what they’re offering.”
Leslie Layton is editor of ChicoSol.