Residents oppose women’s health clinic in Tulare

Tulare Medical Center located at 1068 N Cherry St., Tulare, CA.(Kenny Goodman)

FPA Women’s Health Clinic considers setting up a location in Tulare; Residents rally at city council meeting to protest clinic, citing concerns of potential abortion procedures at the facility

TULARE – With the possibility of the FPA women’s health clinic setting up shop in the Tulare Medical Center, locals voiced concerns at a recent city council meeting. Their chief fear is a potential provision of abortion-inducing medication. However, the matter is entirely out of the city’s control.

At the Feb. 6 Tulare City Council meeting, the city addressed the possibility of a new Family Planning Associates (FPA) Women’s Health Clinic opening in town. Before the meeting went to public comment, City Manager Marc Mondell explained how the city has little-to no control over the decision for the clinic to open in Tulare.

“There is nothing else at this point in time for the city to do,” Mondell said. “This is not going to come before city council. City council does not have the authority to take any action against this.”

Mondell explained the clinic would be opening up in a facility that is already zoned for doctor’s offices. The facility does, however, have a CC&R (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) in place. The document defines rules required for any tenant who wants to use the property. One of the restrictions put in place of the property is that the property is not to be used for an abortion clinic.

“There’s language in the CC&R that restricts (the facility from being used for) an abortion clinic. That’s not a matter for the city to enforce, we don’t have anything to do with those CC&Rs,” Mondell said.

He continued to explain that the council received a letter from the president of FPA Women’s Health, Irving Feldkamp. The letter states, “While some of our locations do provide surgical abortion services, that is not one of the intended or planned uses for our occupancy…this location will not be an abortion clinic as outlined as a non-permitted use in the CC&R.”

The letter also explains the clinic will be used to provide a full scope, gynecological care, STD testing and screening, sexual health education, as well as the provision of virtually all methods of birth control for both men and women. It also says that because they will not be providing surgical abortions, they will be operating within the rules put in place by the CC&N.

Noticeably absent was any mention of non-surgical abortions that patients can take home, such as Mifepristone – also called the abortion pill. It was speculated at the meeting that the clinic would provide those services.

Public Opinion

Community members and the Tulare-Kings Right to Life group took a proactive stance against the clinic, and voiced their objections to any type of abortion that might be provided.

One community member, Shantel Magana, explained her beliefs as a pro-life feminist fuel her objection for the women’s health center. She said she believes the addition of the clinic would increase inequality in the area against low-income people, the Latino community, women and the unborn.

“If anything abortion was, and is, oppression redistributed to the most helpless of our society – the unborn,” Magana said.

Many of the other community members shared their belief that a clinic that could potentially provide the abortion pill is not beneficial for women. Many of the women at the meeting spoke about their own abortion experiences and explained how that fuels their opposition to abortion now. Multiple women described feeling as though they were naive and didn’t fully understand the situation.

One woman said she felt she was lied to by doctors about how developed her baby was when she had an abortion at seven weeks. After going to a seminar about fetal development years later she felt different about her decision and expressed regret that she had trusted the doctors.

“I had a chemical abortion which means I took a pill and abortion many years ago… I want everyone to know the truth about abortion,” Aida Maynes said. “If they’re trying to do a clinic saying that they’re not going to have procedures, but they’re still going to have the chemical pill. That’s an abortion. It’s hurting me till this day.”

Another community member explained her experience at the meeting.

“This doctor’s office, who was not actually providing surgical abortions…at that time, referred me to a family planning facility in Fresno that did surgical abortions,” Dayna Homes said. “I, at the time, was incredibly young and really didn’t hear a lot of other voices telling me that there was another option.”

One of the other themes consistent throughout public comment was religion. Many of the community members noted that their opposition to the clinic is rooted in their own personal Christian values.

“Please protect our beautiful city from these evil things,” Terry Hacobian said. She went on to state that the values that maintain the city’s morals are Christian-Judeo values, and said – from her perspective – the way the city has approached unwanted pregnancy has been counterproductive.

“We are not handling this unexpected pregnancy issue properly,” she said. “It’s been approached from the back door… it needs to be approached from the front door. Prior to the conception, we used to have programs that promoted abstinence or even birth control.”

However, according to the National Library of Medicine, states and countries with abstinence-only education have higher teen pregnancy rates than those with comprehensive sex education which would teach about different forms of birth control.

Multiple nurses and medical professionals in the area also showed up to voice their opposition. One physician, Tom Evans stated that back in 1989, when the CC&R was created, the abortion pill was not an option yet and that all abortions were surgical.

However, it is still unclear if the clinic will open in Tulare or offer any abortion services at all. The Sun-Gazette reached out to FPA Women’s Health for comment but there has been no response as of report.

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