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Interviews & Features

Women's Health Specialists

Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: October 2014

As a sexually active woman living in Chico, I was surprised by the high number of health clinics available (see our handy list of resources in this issue). Fake abortion clinics have been springing up all over the country, now outnumbering real health clinics 5-1. These fake clinics (called Crisis Pregnancy Centers), target women who believe they might be pregnant, or have recently discovered that they’re pregnant. Designed to look like comprehensive health clinics, CPCs are often unregulated and unlicensed, and most use tactics that mislead women about the facts of pregnancy (like “abortion causes cancer,” or that “birth control pills cause abortion”). It absolutely floored me to learn that within Butte County alone, there are four CPCs. Care Net Pregnancy Center in Paradise, Caring for Women Pregnancy Resource Center, Birthright in Chico, and the Women’s Resource Clinic, also in Chico. With the overwhelming number of these CPC’s across the nation (and the unsavory tactics many are using to conceal their intentions), finding reliable and trustworthy locations can prove daunting. One place that’s actually doing some good is Women’s Health Specialists, which offers services like birth control, HIV testing, abortion options, and emergency contraception, to name a few. I recently sat down with Kim Edmonds, manager of the Chico clinic to discuss the direction women’s rights are headed, and fake abortion clinics.

How is WHS different than Planned Parenthood?

I’ve never been to a Planned Parenthood here in Chico, but we do provide a lot of the same resources focused on reproductive health. The difference is that Planned Parenthood gets federal funding; they’re functioning as a much bigger organization. We only have four main clinics; we have one here in Chico, one in Redding, Sacramento and Santa Rosa and we do satellite clinics.

If someone comes in to see you and they have insurance that’s not great, or no insurance at all, what is pricing like?

We take most insurances; we take Covered California, Medi-Cal, and we can sign you up for the Family Pact Program which is the green card that a lot of people use at Planned Parenthood. For pricing we also go based off of a sliding scale. So if you don’t have any insurance and you can’t qualify for Family Pact, we will give you a quote based off of your income.

I was shocked to learn that we actually have one of those fake abortion clinics here in Chico. Can you talk a little bit about the Women’s Resource Clinic?

Yeah, those [fake abortion places] are really common, which is really scary to me. They’re called CPCs, or Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and basically what their goal is, is to talk to women who think they’re pregnant or are in that moment of crisis where they are trying to find resources to make an informed decision about what to do with the pregnancy, or looking for abortion resources. The majority of resource centers for women are these CPCs across the nation. I’ve never been in there [the Chico location] personally, but I’ve had friends go in just to check it out, or friends that have gone to them looking for resources, and been pretty traumatized by their experience there. As far as I’ve heard, they’re pretty aggressive with their information. They provide pregnancy tests, but—there’s a wide range of these centers—while some have doctors, some don’t actually have any doctors. They provide some resources for those women who do plan on continuing the pregnancy—like free baby clothes or that kind of thing—but if you’re not looking to continue the pregnancy, and those resources are being pushed on you, it’s a much different experience, and it’s not something that’s helpful.

Do they offer birth control?

They do not. Their only goal is to talk to the women who are trying to make a decision about their pregnancy.

That’s so insidious.

Yeah, they have little knit baby hats and baby booties up all over their office.

Are you optimistic about the direction women’s rights are heading?

Yes. [laughs] And it’s hard to be optimistic sometimes, especially with abortion laws and how rampant rape and sexual assault seems to continue to be, I am optimistic because of the movement of legislation that is happening. And my everyday work here, and the people I get to work with; I don’t believe we’re going to turn around and go backwards anytime soon.

How do you feel about the recent Yes Means Yes law that was passed?

Rape, and sexual assault and sexual violence in general, is one of the biggest issues you could ever try to have a conversation about, and particularly on college campuses. I worked at the Womens Center in the GSEC (Gender & Sexuality Equity Center) for quite a few years when I went to school at Chico

State, and it never stops. So even though we weren’t a crisis center, we ended up doing a lot of crisis intervention, because that’s what people ended up needing. So I think it’s imperative that the state and federal government and legislation make a stand and make a strong stance about what is OK and what is not OK, and being explicit about that.

What’s something you wish women in the 18-30 age range knew?

One thing I’ve learned living in Chico is that there are a lot of resources out there. It’s not easy to fix culture, it’s not easy to change societal opinions or views or actions, but there is help out there for you. And it can be hard to find sometimes, but Chico in particular is an incredible place. And even when terrible things happen there are resources, and support available to help get you through whatever you need.

Best day on the job, worst day on the job?

Well… (laughs) I don’t know that I can give you a worst day, just because of the nature of this job. There are definitely hard days. But working at a clinic sometimes you have easy days. Where everyone is here getting something they need, and everything goes smoothly. And there are hard days when people are in really tough situations. But regardless of all that, I get to be here, and I get to talk to women, provide them with information, and provide the services that they need. And that’s something that’s really important to me; it’s something I love doing.

There you have it! For more information about Women’s Health Specialists, visit their website at womenshealthspecialists.org, or call their Chico office at (530) 891-1911. 

Arielle Mullen