Pro-life medical clinic demands removal from 'libelous' video

Marisol Health press conference, May 23, 2018. Credit: Vanessa Chavez/Marisol Health.
Marisol Health press conference, May 23, 2018. Credit: Vanessa Chavez/Marisol Health.

.- A video that frames a Colorado women’s clinic as a bogus, sub-par healthcare provider is libelous, said the clinic’s directors and lawyer, who are demanding that it be corrected.

Last week, Attorney Michael J. Norton issued a cease and desist letter on behalf of Marisol Health, a network of women’s health care clinics created by Catholic Charities of Denver.

The letter demands the removal of the clinic’s image and name from a video that suggests it is among crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide medically trained staff or accurate medical information.

“Marisol Health is justifiably proud of the services it provides to women and families and is thus disturbed by the false representations about Marisol Health in a ProgressNow video entitled ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’...with the description ‘Crisis pregnancy centers masquerade as medical facilities,’” Norton wrote in the letter.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Norton said that “Having reviewed the video and having significant knowledge about Marisol and the comprehensive, quality, professional healthcare services that Marisol Health provides, we found...great offense with that video, and we found it to be extremely defamatory, misleading and misrepresentative [of Marisol].”

The video, created about a year ago by progressive advocacy group ProgressNow, has been posted to the group’s facebook page, viewed more than 130,000 times, and republished by numerous affiliates of the organization.  

The video tells the story of 40-year-old Aubrey, an art teacher who recalls her unexpected pregnancy in college. At high risk because of a seizure disorder, Aubrey says in the video that she was referred to an unspecified crisis pregnancy center that lacked any trained medical professionals besides an ultrasound tech.

“I felt like they were really playing on my emotions and as I was walking out they handed me a bible,” Aubrey said in the video.

“The fact that they sent me to some crisis pregnancy center where there was no medical staff, that really bothers me, it really concerns me,” she added. “You had a political motivation or maybe a religious one that you felt was more important than my health.”

Footage in the video shows four different pregnancy centers around Colorado, including the building and name of Marisol Health, which was founded in 2016 - years after Aubrey’s pregnancy. It also includes text that states that crisis pregnancy center staff “rarely have any medical training” and that they “often lie or refuse to provide accurate information.”

At the press conference, Jan McIntosh, vice president of Marisol Services, said it was “outrageous” and “deceptive” to include Marisol in the video and to imply that it does not provide comprehensive health care with licensed medical professionals.

“Marisol Health is a network of clinics that are fully equipped to provide women with comprehensive health care and help them make informed decisions about their reproductive health,” she said. “With Marisol’s special partnership with Bella [Natural Women’s Care], we have fully licensed medical professionals who assist women in need with life-affirming medical care.”

Marisol Health. Credit: Marisol Health.

Among the services provided at Marisol are comprehensive OB/GYN and prenatal care, fertility awareness and infertility care, STD testing, counseling, ultrasounds, and mental health services.

Care is provided regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, McIntosh noted. According to Marisol, 45 percent of their patients have no income or an income of less than $15,000 a year, while 76 percent are on Medicaid or are without insurance.

“We want to take back the true meaning of reproductive care for women,” McIntosh added. “Marisol Health has what women deserve, a clinic that is staffed by licensed medical professionals and offers compassionate care.”

Dede Chism is the co-founder and executive director of Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, which partners with Marisol Health.

She said that both Bella and Marisol “exist to fill the need for dignified, life-affirming healthcare, providing a broad scope of comprehensive obstetric and gynecological health care.”

The need for this kind of care is great among women of all religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, Chism said, citing the 5,000-plus patients that have come to Bella in the past three and half years since they opened their doors.

“Across the lifespan of women from early adolescence through menopause, as a staff of board-certified and board-eligible physicians, midwives, nurse practitioners, certified ultrasonographers, registered nurses, we focus on the highest standards, cutting edge research that actually takes place within our facilities, and scientific methods that are both natural and cooperate with a woman’s body,” she said.

Chism invited anyone with doubts about Marisol or Bella’s quality of care to visit the clinics and see for themselves and “experience what is health care is all about.”

Norton said as of May 23 he had not received a response from ProgressNow regarding his May 17 cease and desist letter, and added that he is prepared to continue to prosecute ProgressNow in order to repair any damage caused to Marisol and Bella by the video.

Earlier this month, Marisol also responded to billboards in Denver that warned against crisis pregnancy centers, calling them “Fake Health Centers.” The billboards, in English and Spanish, were sponsored by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), a group also associated with the creation of the ProgressNow video, which it has embedded on its website.

A representative from COLOR told Fox News in Denver that they considered the crisis pregnancy clinics fake because they do not offer “abortion care” in their facilities and often lack trained medical professionals.  

The video from ProgressNow also comes at a time when the Supreme Court is deciding a case called National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, which will decide whether a California law mandating that pro-life pregnancy centers post information about abortion is a violation of the First Amendment and free speech rights.

Similar laws, such as one in Baltimore, have been struck down in courts as unconstitutional.

Correction: A previous version of this story identified the creator of Marisol as Catholic Charities of Colorado, instead of Catholic Charities of Denver. It has since been updated. 

Tags: Pro-life, Catholic News, Marisol, Pro-life pregnancy centers