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The Carletonian

    In Defense of the Northfield Women’s Center

    I believe abortion is the most controversial political issue right now. In class, I’ve heard political discussions about almost everything, but abortion is notably absent, and that may be because people on both sides don’t see it as a debate. Instead, for one side, not believing in the right to choose is a sign that you do not care about women’s autonomy, and for the other side, the right to choose is a sign that you do not care about the casual acceptance of murder.
    I can only assume that’s why, after a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), the Northfield Women’s Center (NWC), opened recently in Northfield, both Carleton and St. Olaf students turned out in full force to rally against what they labeled a “fake abortion clinic.” Upon doing some research into the Northfield Women’s Center (NWC), I see why these protesters are fervently opposed to its existence.
    The NWC bills itself as a medical facility that offers pregnancy and STI testing, as well as parental counseling. However, they do not offer abortions. This clinic and all other crisis pregnancy centers exist to convince women to forgo an abortion and bring their pregnancies to term. There’s actually another, more technical reason why they don’t perform the procedure: none of the employees are certified to do so.
    According to people I spoke to and a flier the protesters passed out, the main problem was that CPCs are misleading about their pro-life cause. They use “deception, coercion and shame,” as stated in the protester pamphlets, to deter people from seeking abortion. They spread medical misinformation and lie about the costs of raising a child. Some even encourage survivors of domestic abuse to stay with their partner.
    If this was all known to be true about the NWC, then I’d be the first one out in the streets protesting this faux clinic. And initially, I was there, in full support. But during my time at the demonstration and after, I began to dissent from the protesters’ views.
    Although CPCs discourage abortion, they still play a valuable role in healthcare. This is especially true in rural Minnesota, where 27% of the state’s population lives. Where state hospitals in the area have closed down, CPCs have endured, which is why they’ve received state funds since 2003. This isn’t conservative spin; even as the Minnesota Legislature tried to remove these funds, it was actually a Democrat, Rep. Liz Olson, who spoke up in defense of the CPC grants. Some of the protesters I talked to wanted to fully shut down the NWC and other CPCs, but I implore them to think outside of the college bubble. There may be other alternative clinics in Northfield, but this is not the case everywhere. By shutting down these clinics, women will have to travel farther to get an ultrasound. They will have to travel farther to seek resources for parenting. And most notably, they might not receive the information about whether to have an abortion or not. All this would undermine the pro-choice cause they seek to advocate.
    I also find other criticisms of CPCs to be tiring, some of which I’ll quickly debunk. One: CPCs are predatory because they set up shop near colleges. No, they don’t do that because they’re predatory, they do it because that’s where their customers are. That’s not predatory, that’s what every business does. Two: CPCs non-abortion medical services are inaccurate. This one’s complicated. There are definitely clinics out there that offer faulty services and encourage women to delay even getting an ultrasound, but that’s mostly due to a lack of regulation, not an inherent part of CPCs. And finally, the claim that CPCs don’t care about the baby after it’s born. Again, I can’t speak for every CPC, but the NWC actually offers a course on parenting as well as one on how to continue one’s personal goals as a parent. I wish I could’ve told some of the protesters about this fact in particular.
    But don’t mistake that as a sign that I support CPCs; I have many more reasons why I dislike them too. Because CPCs do not formally label themselves as clinics, they are remarkably exempt from many health regulations. The employees don’t need to be doctors, nurses or even remotely attached to a relevant background. Moreover, they are also free to spread misinformation about abortion because they operate as a business more than a clinic obligated to operate under medical ethics. In the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, these flaws are even more reprehensible and serve as a further oppression of reproductive freedom.
    So on one hand, CPCs provide much-needed healthcare and counseling for small communities. But on the other hand, they also lie about and obfuscate an essential part of women’s healthcare. So what’s the solution to this problem?
    I’m no politician, but I believe the first thing that should be done is that CPCs should become medically licensed. Have them operate under the same rules and regulations that hospitals and real clinics do. It should be required that every CPC have at least one doctor or medical professional present at all times. If a clinic declines to do so, they should lose their state funds. Additionally, whether they want funding or not, they should be obligated under any circumstance to tell the truth in its full context to patients. Separate subjective opinion from the objective truth, and I think CPCs can become useful organizations that both pro-choice and pro-life people support.
    I’m not saying I’d donate to the NWC; I’m not even saying I support the organization as it stands. But instead of shutting these flawed organizations down, we should work on reforming them to better and more accurately serve their communities instead.

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    About the Contributor
    Tripp Tokioka
    Tripp Tokioka, News Editor
    "If you're looking for me, you can find me in the arb playing frisbee or falling asleep on the OIL couch. Ask me anything about the 70's, or music in general." Tripp is a sophomore and was previously a Staff Writer.

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