A matter of choice

Kingston’s Pregnancy Care Centre, a religious charity, offers support to pregnant women, but not abortion referrals

The KPCC doesn’t provide abortion referrals to clients.
The KPCC doesn’t provide abortion referrals to clients.

Kingston’s Pregnancy Care Centre (KPCC) has no desire to deceive anyone, according to director Donna Bell.

The Centre, located at Clarence and Bagot Streets, advertises itself on Kingston Transit buses as a safe place for pregnant women who are scared or worried. Its main clientele are between the ages of 19 and 24.

Some of the resources the Centre offers are pregnancy tests, adoption referrals and counselling services.

In the past, there have been concerns raised that the Centre isn’t clear about their pro-life standpoint and religious affiliation.

The KPCC is a Christian organization and doesn’t provide abortion referrals. Although this fact isn’t stated on its bus ads, it’s mentioned on its pamphlets, Bell said.

“We are Christian … but we’re very welcoming. I’ve had numerous Muslim clients and they’re totally fine with it,” she said “We don’t talk about the Christian faith.”

Although the organization is Christian, it’s not affiliated with any specific denominations or churches.

“We’re very respectful with it,” Bell added. “I would hazard to guess that with the clients I see, four out of five never mention anything faith-based. But the one out of five who want support in that way, we offer that.”

A similar resource, Birthright Kingston, also has its offices downtown. It’s affiliated with Birthright International and has a nearly identical mandate.

According to the Canada Revenue Agency’s Registered Charity Information for 2011, the KPCC devoted 90 per cent of its time and resources that year to its counselling services, while 10 per cent was devoted to ministry organizations and evangelism.

Bell doesn’t like to use the word “anti-abortionist” to describe the organization, instead saying that it supports “life-affirming choices.” A KPCC pamphlet, which identifies the Centre as Christian, says it promotes “living alternatives to abortion.” The KPCC website mentions that it doesn’t provide abortion referrals, but that information isn’t available on the homepage.

“On our website, it’s quite clear. We don’t have it on our ads in the bus because we’re limited for space,” Bell said.

“We haven’t left it off on purpose, we just don’t feel like it’s our number one thing.”

The Centre’s stance on abortion isn’t newly developed — it’s had religious connections since its inception in 1989. Until recently, it was housed in St. Paul’s Anglican Church at Queen and Montreal Streets, but has since relocated to its current location on Clarence St.

God’s Plenty: Religious Diversity in Kingston, a book written by School of Religion professor William Closson James, describes the KPCC as historically “anti-abortion.” It also states that in the past, mostly Protestant evangelical and Roman Catholic congregations have supported the Centre.

For years, it was known as the Kingston Crisis Pregnancy Centre, but Bell chose to change the name to the Pregnancy Care Centre when she came on as director less than five years ago.

“[Pregnancy] is not always a crisis,” she said. “Care is a more welcoming term.”

The Centre is one of many “pregnancy care centres” located in Canada, that are mostly associated with one core organization, the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS).

CAPSS has a similar mandate to the KPCC — they support Centres that encourage life-focused alternatives to abortion.

The pro-choice versus pro-life debate isn’t anything new for Kingston and Queen’s students.

In 1989, there was a 500-person anti-abortion protest outside the Kingston Gospel Church on Princess St. near John Counter Boulevard, a demonstration spearheaded by Christian groups.

Pro-choice activists from Queen’s also attended the rally. At the time, local churches had voiced support for the then newly opened Pregnancy Care Centre.

On campus, the Sexual Health Resource Centre (SHRC) aims to provide visitors access to information on all options — adoption, abortion and raising the child.

The SHRC will only provide referrals to the KPCC if visitors ask for it by name and understand the services they provide.

“Although the KPCC has recently updated their website to make it more clear what services and referrals they do or do not provide, they have a history of deceptive advertising that could lead people to believe they are a pro-choice organization when they are in fact anti-choice,” said SHRC director, Amanda Judd, in an email to the Journal.

“Our clients have reported that they felt the tone of the ads was different than the services provided, and that including the words ‘abortion’ and ‘counselling on your options’ seemed to imply that abortion was one of the options they’d discuss,” she said. “Their ads imply that they are a non-judgmental resource.”

Judd added that although the SHRC takes a pro-choice stance, they’re an educational service and don’t denounce other organizations in the city.

They choose to refer patients to professional counselling instead of the “post-abortion” counselling offered at places such as the KPCC.

This is because “post-abortion regret” and “post-abortion depression” is less common than some organizations will have you believe, Judd said.

“The rates of depression in women who have had abortions is on par with rates of depression in the general population. Most women actually feel significant relief after the procedure,” she said, adding that these statistics are found in many psychiatric studies and that arguments against tend to be based on less credible sources.

Counselling by organizations such as the KPCC may reinforce a woman’s feelings of guilt and shame after the procedure, she said, adding that this may be due to the stigmatization of unplanned pregnancy and abortion.

“Our volunteers are trained to never pass judgment upon a client for their situation or choices,” Judd said. “This is an essential part of our mandate and (as much as possible) we try to ensure that the organizations that we refer our clients to share this value as well.”

A visit to the KPCC

Upon walking into the Kingston Pregnancy Care Centre (KPCC), I was asked to remove my shoes and coat. There was a little basket of slippers in the corner, next to a row of seats in a waiting area.

This wasn’t a typical clinic.

The client intake form asked for my contact information, my pregnancy history as well as my marital status and religion. Once I was finished filling it out, the counsellor took me to a quiet room with a view of Clarence St.

We sat in chairs and she sat with a clipboard while I sat looking out the window.

“So tell me what’s going on,” the counsellor said.

I explained my situation — my pregnancy test had come out positive, and I felt confused and afraid about it. She nodded while I went on. Reaching for a chart, the counsellor asked me when my last period was.

“You’re five to six weeks along.”

I told her that I was definitely not keeping the baby, ruling out the option of becoming a young mother. There are only two options left at this point: adoption or abortion.

That’s when the counsellor told me that the clinic doesn’t do abortion referrals.

Despite that, she walked me through a typical abortion procedure for a six-week pregnancy. I remember she used her hands to describe what might be done to the opening of my cervix.

She looked visibly pained as she described all of this, all while I could feel an uncomfortable shift in my gut.

The counsellor then described the psychological effects of abortion — depression, suicidal thoughts and mourning the abortion anniversary. The KPCC holds post-abortion group counselling sessions for women going through these issues.

I felt strange continuing to talk about abortion, so I asked about adoption. The counsellor’s demeanour lightened up as she explained the processes behind modern adoptions. She was eager to describe the process and told me how someone from the KPCC would accompany me through the whole procedure.

I left soon after with a handful of pamphlets. The experience wasn’t an altogether negative one, but it left me feeling exhausted and anxious.

I told the counsellor that I had some big decisions to make. It’s unclear whether the KPCC really pointed me to any options.

This is the experience of a Journal staff member who visited the KPCC to get information about pregnancy options.

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