UCF students protest crisis pregnancy center near campus

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More than a dozen people gathered outside a women’s health clinic Tuesday afternoon to protest crisis pregnancy centers.

A crisis pregnancy center is an organization that intercepts pregnant women who might be considering abortion by persuading them to consider adoption or parenting instead, according to the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics.

The protesters marched a quarter of a mile down Culver Road in East Orlando toward ThriVe Orlando, which is about 15 minutes from UCF’s main campus.

“We’re here because we want to expose the truth behind crisis pregnancy centers,” Sheena Johnson, a member of Organize Florida, said. “These are anti-abortion, fake clinics masquerading as real reproductive health centers, but they are not.” 

Organize Florida is a movement of community leaders who advocate for racial, economic and reproductive justice, according to its website.

UCF senior and interdisciplinary studies major Kat Agreda said the clinics are “very strategic and proactive in that they have access to resources and know how to use them.”

“[The clinics] do that by having ultrasound machines and wearing white coats … they mislead, they lie,” UCF alumna and graduate student Estefany Londono said. 

Agreda said crisis pregnancy centers often feature young people in their ads and promise to counsel women on all their options. 

“Fake abortion clinics like ThriVe do not do anything except cause the harm and trauma they claim to save us from,” Agreda said.

Executive Director of ThriVe Orlando Yvette Finlay responded to a Wednesday email from the Focus but requested to review questions before answering them. ThriVe Orlando did not respond to the Focus’ follow-up email or phone call. 

Crisis pregnancy centers are usually located close to other reproductive health care facilities and abortion clinics, the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics states.

ThriVe Orlando is located across the street from Birth Control Center Inc. and is just a few miles from a Planned Parenthood.

“They’re not being transparent,” Johnson said.

According to the clinic’s website, ThriVe Orlando closes on Tuesday at 7 p.m., but it was closed during the 3 p.m. protest.

Agreda said ThriVe is a major threat to students as it actively targets them. ThriVe Orlando’s main website provides directions from six colleges — including UCF — and five local high schools.

“As an activist for choice and bodily autonomy on UCF’s campus for what is coming close to four years now, I have stared in the face of countless anti-choice individuals,” Agreda said, “I’m here to say we will not stand by as fellow students and peers are actively targeted, misled and ultimately having their choices taken away from them.”

Some protesters at the event also opposed newly introduced state legislation that affects abortion-providing clinics. 

On March 21, House Bill 41 was signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The bill will eliminate funding from health clinics that provide birth control and abortion services in favor of clinics that promote childbirth, according to the bill summary. The bill will take effect on July 1, 2018, in Florida.

“[It’s] insane,” Johnson said. “There’s no accountability for these institutions, yet they’re getting public funding.”

Some people who work and volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers lack appropriate qualifications such as medical licenses and have evangelical backgrounds, Londono said. The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics confirmed that most crisis pregnancy centers are religiously affiliated.

Crisis pregnancy centers do not need to meet “health and safety standards for hygiene, employee qualifications and supervision, quality of care and patient confidentiality,” according to a 2012 study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

ThriVe Orlando is associated with Cornerstone Ministry Village, according to the Cornerstone Ministry Village-ThriVe website. The website also affirms that ThriVe is a “Christ-centered medical clinic.”

Johnson said there are several “fake clinics” operating in the Orlando area, but she did not give expand on which clinics. 

Choices Women’s Clinic in Orlando is another religious-based organization that does not provide abortions, according to one employee. The employee, Michelle, declined to provide her last name and did not explain why. 

“We’re a crisis pregnancy center so what we do is provide women with their options and do pregnancy tests,” she said over the phone Wednesday. “We’re a medical clinic so that’s just not a service that we offer.”