The general public well being unit in Chatham-Kent, Ont., has been referring ladies, together with these with unplanned pregnancies, to a non-public group with connections to anti-abortion views, CBC Information has discovered.
CK Public Well being has been itemizing Refuge as a neighborhood useful resource on its web site for pregnant ladies in disaster or these looking for assist. That reference was eliminated final week when CBC Information started inquiring in regards to the relationship.
However previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, the well being unit additionally stationed nurses inside Refuge the place they met ladies for breastfeeding assist clinics.
Candace Johnson, a professor of political science on the College of Guelph, says individuals must be alarmed by this. She referred to as it “outrageous.”
Johnson researches points associated to abortion, reproductive rights and justice. She stated it is unacceptable and problematic for a public well being unit to refer ladies, in any approach, to a corporation identified to have anti-abortion connections.
“The issue is that it looks like there’s a point of deception. It appears to be a referral to an company that’s going to offer some form of unbiased info when that is not the case,” she stated. She additionally doubts whether or not a corporation resembling Refuge can be fully impartial.
Nurse speaks out
Carolyn Martin, a nurse at CK Public Well being for the final 20 years, feels the identical. That is why she’s talking out.
Martin has labored principally with teenagers over her 20 years with CK Public Well being, and supplies assist to new and expectant moms. She stated she worries most about weak teenagers referred to Refuge who could have an unplanned being pregnant and are available from a low-income household or a marginalized group, and will not have grownup assist at house.
“What’s saddest about it’s the child who simply does not have an grownup to say ‘this is all of your actual choices,'” stated Martin.
Martin stated she additionally questions why the well being unit directed ladies to Refuge for breastfeeding assist when CK Public Well being had area at its constructing close by.
“It simply made me mad,” she stated.
CK Public Well being had a four-page doc on-line that contained neighborhood sources for girls. It listed Refuge as a useful resource for younger mothers, these experiencing a disaster or surprising being pregnant, and girls in want.
Nonetheless, in the future after CBC Information started asking questions in regards to the relationship, CK Public Well being eliminated that doc from its web site.
In recent times, a billboard referencing Refuge popped up in Chatham-Kent equating abortion to homicide with the picture of a new child child clearly displayed. The identical billboard nonetheless stands close to Dresden, however it now incorporates a web site referencing Life in Movement.
“CK Public Well being doesn’t endorse all messaging put out by Refuge Chatham-Kent, nor do we’ve got a shared mission or imaginative and prescient,” stated Caress Lee Carpenter, public relations officer, in an emailed assertion.
CK Public Well being hasn’t responded to subsequent emails from CBC Information.
‘We’re not doing a bait-and-switch right here’
The director of shopper care at Refuge, BJ Kivell, stated she personally takes a “pro-life” stance, however provides that does not forestall her from telling pregnant ladies about all their choices in an unbiased approach.
“I do not share a bias with them. I simply particularly speak to them about what we provide, about what their choices are, how we will assist them going ahead. That is it,” stated Kivell. “I really feel like I simply state the data in a caring approach. They don’t seem to be pressured to do something.”
“We’re not doing a bait-and-switch right here.”
On its web site, Refuge stated it gives free being pregnant helps for girls and households.
Nurse recordsdata criticism
Martin filed an inside company criticism 4 years in the past about CK Public Well being’s relationship with Refuge, and it placing nurses contained in the personal group.
She stated her declare was dismissed and the association continued till the start of the pandemic. when nurses had been reassigned to assist with COVID-19.
“The affiliation was so entrenched that you simply simply really feel such as you’re going up in opposition to this behemoth,” stated Martin. “I have been advocating with different nurses for 4 years and it is nearly prefer it made no distinction.”
Final month, Martin says she filed a criticism with the School of Nurses of Ontario (CNO). A CNO spokesperson could not affirm whether or not any particular criticism was acquired or the standing of any potential investigation.
The CNO has established a code of conduct in addition to apply requirements and pointers, however neither specify the place nurses could refer sufferers for care.
Below these guidelines, “nurses are anticipated to respect sufferers’ beliefs, values and objectives, collaborate with sufferers, and guarantee they don’t impose their private beliefs and biases on sufferers,” stated CNO spokesperson Kristi Inexperienced.
Refuge’s anti-abortion connection
Refuge is linked to 2 different entities with anti-abortion sentiments.
A bunch often known as Proper to Life Kent first created Refuge. Kivell stated Refuge depends fully on neighborhood donations, which additionally come from space church buildings.
“Our group Proper to Life, we’re ‘pro-life,'” Kivell stated. “When individuals come right here to Refuge for assist and assist, we’re not taking a stance [on] something. We’re simply giving them the data they usually’re capable of make an knowledgeable resolution.”
One other group often known as Life in Movement references Proper to Life Kent in its e-mail handle and stated donations might be made to that group, which finally helps the Refuge being pregnant centre.
On the identical time, Life in Movement’s web site says it stands for “defending pro-life” and even claims “there isn’t any safety for the unborn.”
Advocating for change has been onerous, says nurse
Talking up hasn’t been straightforward, Martin stated. She’s felt bullied and harassed.
Her position as a public well being nurse is targeted on serving to teenagers and younger mothers, however Martin claims she was pressured to do coaching about security associated to chicken dropping removing, utilizing a jackhammer and digging trenches.
“Each demeaning [thing] that they may make me do, they tried to do,” she stated.
Martin is a single mom and stated her job is vital to her household’s stability. However she stated she’ll by no means cease advocating for younger, weak individuals in Chatham-Kent.
“Who’s going to face up for the children who’re going to Refuge unknowingly?”