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Controversial pregnancy care centre opens in Airdrie

pregnancy centre2
The Airdrie Pregnancy Care Centre, a satellite facility from The Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre, held a grand opening celebration Oct. 8. The controversial Christian charity offers support for women facing unplanned pregnancies, but has been associated with anti-choice groups. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

The Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre (CPCC) has opened a new satellite office in Airdrie, providing "additional services and support for women and families outside of the Calgary area."

“We are very excited to be in a position to extend our support for those women and families in the Airdrie area,” said Jutta Wittmeier, the Christian charity's executive director. “Thanks to the support of our generous donors and volunteers, the Airdrie Pregnancy Care Centre will provide a safe place where those facing pregnancy-related decisions or challenges can find support, connection and educational help no matter their situation.”

CPCC, according to a press release, "promotes informed decision-making and offers long-term support and connection, providing a foundation for growth in individuals and families who are facing pregnancy-related challenges" to those facing an unplanned pregnancy or post-abortion stress.

Wittmeier said the centre focuses on unplanned pregnancies specifically because carrying a child is the "most vulnerable time" for a woman, "especially when you aren't ready for this, or you don't feel you're ready for it."

"Our first piece, the first role is just to provide support and relationship for those people, and find the support that they need within Airdrie, and in Calgary, if that is helpful," she said.

Though the Airdrie location is now open, Wittmeier said the organization is still trying to determine what services it will provide at the satellite office. 

"We are really working at trying to understand what we can offer and what we can bring that isn't already there," she said. "And we know that there are wonderful agencies already in Airdrie who are doing some great work, and we do not want to duplicate services. So, we are going to absolutely try to find our unique place in that."

Wittmeier said the centre hopes to offer free, adoption-sensitive prenatal classes – or a one-to-one alternative when the need arises – and already has a registered nurse in place. Additionally, she would like to see CPCC's financial literacy and fatherhood classes start in Airdrie.

The new centre currently has two staff members and is located at 204 1 Ave. N.E.

Concerns raised

Though a CPCC release said it "promotes informed decision-making," it was included as a "crisis pregnancy centre" in a 2016 study from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

"Crisis pregnancy centres (CPC) are anti-choice agencies that present themselves as unbiased medical clinics or counselling centres.... However, CPCs are not medical facilities, most are Christian ministries, they generally will not refer clients for abortion or contraception, and many promote misinformation such as the existence of 'Post-abortion Syndrome,' which is not a medically-recognized condition," the study stated.

"Their whole purpose is just to talk women out of having an abortion – they call them abortion-minded women," said Celia Posyniak, executive director of the Kensington Clinic in Calgary.

Though Wittmeier would not say CPCC is anti-abortion, she said the "polarization of this issue helps no one."

"While I would say we are pro-life, but we are pro the woman's life, as well," she said. "We do not pressure, we do not push. [The client] has a decision to make, we believe the best decision a person can make is an informed decision. And also, we want to offer her the support that she needs, because sometimes she's experiencing all kinds of pressures and needs a safe place, even to talk."

However, Posyniak said the organization does not allow women a fully informed decision, and instead delivers biased information, clings to disproven concerns around abortion – such the relationship between abortion and breast cancer – employs scare tactics, has a religious agenda and promotes stigma associated with abortion.

"We would never refer anyone there," Posyniak said. "And, quite frankly, if we see someone who has been there, we usually have to clear up some misconceptions that they've been led to believe were true."

Wittmeier countered that claim and said the centre uses information from Alberta Health Services and provides the same information as that available on the Kensington Clinic's website.

"We are very, very careful to use appropriate scientific information, we don't give a lot of information," she said. "When we do education, with women when they're in their decision making, we spend about five minutes talking about all three of their choices."

The centre offers adoption referrals, community services referrals and post-abortion grief support, but it does not provide abortion referrals.

"Our trained peer counsellors are available to discuss with you any questions you may have regarding having an abortion, barriers to continuing a pregnancy, risks associated with abortion, and alternatives to abortion," according to the CPCC website.

"We are here to help you understand all your options so that you can make an informed decision."

Posyniak said statements like that above are not surprising as, "they're not upfront and honest in their presentation to the public by any stretch." 

"Their public presentation is very deceptive," she said. "They omit the parts about them that would make people think, 'Oh, not a good place to go.'"

Wittmeier, however, stressed CPCC and the Airdrie centre provide a safe, supportive place for those accessing its services.

"We'd like to have [our clients] thrive, and to be able to come out ahead and be able to move forward and get out of all the cycles that we're seeing in our culture," she said, describing the current culture as "very individual" and adding she would like to see a shift to a more community-focused society.

For more information on CPCC, visit pregcare.com

The Kensington Clinic serves Airdrie and also offers counselling. For more information, visit kensingtonclinic.com



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