HYANNIS — The anti-abortion van affiliated with Your Options Medical, which operates “crisis pregnancy centers” from a parent site in Revere, has been under review by the Mass. Dept. of Public Health (DPH) for at least two months. The investigation is ongoing.
According to documents obtained by the Independent, DPH renewed the clinic license for the mobile unit on July 12. Then, on Aug. 30, DPH conducted an unannounced survey of the unit. Based on that visit, according to DPH, the state agency sent the facility a statement of deficiencies regarding the mobile unit’s operation.
At a meeting of the Hyannis chapter of 40 Days for Life, an anti-abortion group, on Sept. 8, Your Options Medical’s director Teresa Larkin said that the mobile van had recently had “an issue” with DPH. She called it “the tip of the hand of somebody wanting to shut us down,” but added, “We believe it’s been resolved.”
Your Options Medical submitted at least one correction plan to DPH; it was not approved. During the first week of November another plan was submitted; it was under review as of Monday, Nov. 6.
The license renewal application submitted for the Your Options Medical mobile van on June 8 stated that it would operate “in the Southbridge area.” The van was relocated to Cape Cod two months later, shortly after Health Imperatives in Hyannis became the only clinic prescribing medication abortions on Cape Cod in early July.
Larkin had told the Independent that she hoped the mobile unit would open its doors in September. She could not be reached for comment for this report.
A review of a separate complaint about the Your Options Medical mobile unit is also underway, prompted by an Oct. 17 letter from the Boston-based organization Reproductive Equity Now. The letter, sent to DPH and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, charges that
Your Options Medical may be engaging in “deceptive practices and potentially endorsing out-of-scope diagnoses by registered nurses.”
In a Sept. 29 letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, DPH Commissioner Robert Goldstein addressed Your Options Medical and the broader crisis pregnancy center phenomenon. “These organizations seek to prevent people from accessing abortion care,” he wrote, “often by providing inaccurate and misleading information, including about the physical and psychological effects of abortion.”
Not So Peaceful
The sidewalk outside Health Imperatives has been the scene of competing demonstrations in the past several weeks. A 40 Days for Life vigil ended on Sunday, Nov. 5. During its final two days, counterdemonstrators showed up to defend abortion rights.
Julia Kehoe, the director of Health Imperatives, said that the clinic did not experience any change in the number of people seeking care during the 40 days, though patients were distressed by the vigil.
“It’s very upsetting when you’re coming in for a service and there’s someone there basically questioning your rights and decision,” Kehoe said, noting that the protests didn’t seem to change patients’ beliefs. “Quite the opposite,” she said.
Before Health Imperatives began providing prescriptions for abortion this summer, the closest option for people on Cape Cod seeking abortions was in Attleboro — more than 100 miles from Provincetown.
According to 40 Days for Life’s printed materials, the organization is “committed to ending the scourge of abortion through prayerful, peaceful, lawful vigils demonstrating truth, love & compassion.”
The protestors bore signs about prayer and murder of the unborn and held a banner that read “God Is Pro-Life.” The banner blocked the sidewalk, and at least once the abortion protesters refused to clear the path for a pro-choice demonstrator trying to pass by. Periodically, they recited the rosary.
A man who said his name was David Christopher prayed in tongues, holding a sign that said, “Ask me about abortion pill reversal.” When asked by a reporter what he thought about the pill reversal not being FDA-approved, he said, “I don’t know about that, I just know that it saves lives. Is killing the unborn FDA-approved?”
Medication abortion consists of two FDA-approved drugs — mifepristone and misoprostol — taken 24 to 48 hours apart. Abortion pill reversals “are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Elaine Vermette of Hyannis had taped a plastic baby doll to her sign. She had come on her own, not as part of the 40 Days campaign, to protest. “I’m totally against abortion,” she said. “I feel bad if women get raped, but it’s God’s decision whether she has the baby or not. If she doesn’t want it, she should give the baby up.”
Marcia Goffin of Eastham was rallying for choice alongside other members of Indivisible Mass. Coalition’s Feminist Action Team, led by Laurie Veninger of Truro. “I’ve been doing this since before Roe, and I can’t believe we’re doing it again,” Goffin said.
The Hyannis chapter of 40 Days for Life is led by Sheila Quinn. Participants in its protest had to sign a “statement of peace” that included a vow to “neither commit any act of violence, threaten or touch any person, nor display or discuss weapons.”
A video obtained by the Independent from the last day of the protest shows Quinn grabbing Veninger by her backpack and tugging her backward twice. Quinn declined to comment for this article.
Clergy for Choice
A group of Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist clergy were present on Wednesdays throughout the 40 Days campaign. Margot Critchfield of Sandwich, a former Episcopal priest, helped organize the group.
“We wanted to make a statement so that people would know that the religious right does not represent all clergy or all faiths by any stretch of the imagination,” Critchfield said. “It shouldn’t be such an incredible thing, but people were surprised.”
Critchfield and Kristen Harper, a Unitarian Universalist minister in Barnstable, published an op-ed in the Cape Cod Times about their group. “Being pro-choice means we believe women and trans men should have access to health care without judgment and impediment,” they wrote. “It means that we believe our bodies should not be controlled by or condemned by any faith community.”
Debbie Mangen, a rabbi who lives in Barnstable, said what brought her to the demonstration was “a feeling of disempowerment.” She said the gathering was generally collegial until Sunday, which was “the first time I experienced people from the vigil coming up to us and either praying for us, calling us murderers, or calling us Satan.”
David Freelund, the rabbi at Cape Cod Synagogue, was a fixture of Clergy for Choice each Wednesday during the campaign. That, he said, was because of “a firm belief that people should not be legislating their religious beliefs on other people.” He added that “it’s pretty solid from scripture that a fetus is not alive.”