09 May Why Did Raleigh Give $30K to a Faith-Based Clinic With Ties…
The Raleigh City Council unanimously voted to give $30,000 to a faith-based health clinic Tuesday, though several council members later said they were unaware that the clinic has ties to an anti-abortion-rights organization and a church that promotes conversion therapy for LGBTQ people.
Some council members say they regret the decision and want to reverse it, though others point out that the clinic provides vital health care services to low-income refugees and immigrants.
At Tuesdayâs meeting, Kay Crowder asked the council Tuesday to give $30,000 from the cityâs contingency fund to NeighborHealth, a nonprofit clinic founded in 2018 in Northwest Raleigh. According to the clinicâs website, its mission is to â[serve] Christ by loving our neighbors through the practice of excellent, compassionate and accessible health care.â
According to its website, NeighborHealth partners with Gateway Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion-rights nonprofit on Hillsborough Street whose website warns women about the alleged physical, psychological, emotional, and âspiritualâ consequences of obtaining an abortion, and asks patients to consider: âHow does God see your unborn child?â
NeighborHealth also partners with Church of the Apostles, a Raleigh ministry that invites congregants to connect with the program Beyond Imagination on its site. Beyond Imagination aims to âbring Godâs healing and redemptive power to those who struggle with undesired homosexuality, sexual addictions, and women with a history of childhood sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.â
So-called conversion therapy has been banned for minors in several states and is strongly opposed by the American Psychiatric Association, which says the practice creates âa significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated.â Â
Crowder said Tuesday that NeighborHealth âtakes care of an underserved community,â including those without insurance. The group was late to the cityâs grant application process, so she wanted to give it leftover funds from the contingency fund. She made no mention of the groupâs connection to anti-choice or pro-LGBTQ-conversion groups.
Crowder told the INDY Thursday that sheâd be âunavailable the rest of this week with Motherâs Day family obligations.â
NeighborHealth CEO Sue Ellen Thompson says the clinic has seen seventeen hundred patients since it started last year, 70 percent of whom are not insured. For the uninsured, care is provided on an income-based sliding scale, but that money doesnât fully cover the clinicâs expenses, so it has to rely on donations and government funding to make up the difference.
Reproductive care accounts for less than 10 percent of the clinicâs services, Thompson says.
Asked about the clinicâs approach to abortion and conversion therapy, Thompson says NeighborHealth âis not political.â It does not refer patients to Gateway or give that center money, she says. Instead, Gateway refers patients to NeighborHealth.
Thompson told the INDY that the clinic does provide information on abortion, but she said she would need to consult with her providers on what specific information they give to patients. Â
âWe would not promote abortion,â Thompson says. âWeâre not gonna tell women they should get an abortion. But they have their right to choose, so weâre seeing them from a medical perspective.â
Doug Briggs, the clinicâs head physician, told the INDY he opposes abortion. He says he practiced medicine in China for over two decades. There, he says, he saw women who were forced to have abortions and then were given the aborted fetus in a âzip lock bag.â
At the clinic, he tells patients that abortion is an option, but adds: âGenerally, I would encourage them to keep their baby. This is always going to be your baby no matter what you decide.â
He also tells them about the âunmeasurableâ consequences of abortion, which he says include psychological suffering, trauma, grief, suicidal thoughts, and spiritual consequences.
There are âa lot of women who had had abortions who are suffering psychologically,â he says. He says he provides counseling to them after abortion.
Studies claiming that women experience negative mental health effects following an abortion have been âcritically refuted,â according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Research has found that women who have abortions do not experience more depression or anxiety than those who carry their pregnancies to term; in fact, one study found that who were denied an abortion reported more anxiety than women who had an abortion.
NeighborHealth hasnât dealt with abortion a lot, at least not yet. Briggs says heâs only consulted with one patient so far who was pregnant and undecided on whether to have the baby. He never consulted with her again, but he says she seemed to lean toward wanting to have the child.
Asked about NeighborHealthâs association with Church of the Apostles, Thompson says her brother was gay and died of AIDS in 1992.
âWe are in no way homophobic,â Thompson says.
Council members Stef Mendell, Corey Branch, and Nicole Stewart told the INDY they were unaware of the NeighborHealthâs anti-abortion connections when they voted to fund the clinic Tuesday.
Mendell now says that, while the vote was a mistake, she thinks the clinic should keep the money because it provides affordable health care for uninsured patients.
âI regret that I voted for it,â Mendell says. âAt this point, I think I’m willing to let the vote stand. We voted to fund them for one time only to help them get on their feet, and they do a lot of good work, especially in the immigrant community.â
Branch, however, is looking into reversing the decision.
âIâm looking into it now and having a conversation,â he says. âWe canât act on it until our next city council meeting. Iâm probably leaning towards [reversing] it, but I need to have an in-depth conversation with Councilor Crowder.â
Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at [email protected]Â
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