Obria, an Anti-Abortion Faith-Based Medical Chain, Is Thriving Under Trump August 31, 2019

Obria, an Anti-Abortion Faith-Based Medical Chain, Is Thriving Under Trump

At first glance, Obria Medical Clinics seems like a standard women’s health clinic chain — and that’s by design.

The organization’s client-facing website cultivates an image of medical neutrality, with plenty of soothing blue banners and pictures of empathic-looking women in lab coats. They describe a range of services that they offer, including STI screening, sexual health and birth control advice, and well-woman exams as well as a range of prenatal care options, pregnancy testing, and abortion counseling (“pregnancy decision consultations”).

The site subtly positions Obria as a warmer, more personable alternative to cold, clinical medical settings. Given a sexist medical system in which women’s concerns are often dismissed or ignored, it’s easy to see why the approach garners interest.

Scratch the surface of their branding, though, and the decades-old anti-abortion rhetoric of the Religious Right becomes evident.

Obria started its life as a crisis pregnancy center, Birthright of Mission Viejo, in the 1980s. In 2014, though, the brand evolved into the more innocuous-sounding Obria, a name that bears no trace of its conservative, anti-choice past. Now, in today’s increasingly right-leaning political atmosphere, they’re trying to position themselves as a national alternative to Planned Parenthood, chasing Title X funding and aiming to open 200 clinics across the United States within the next three years.

Outside of the promotional materials directed at clients, Obria founder Kathleen Eaton Bravo makes no secret of her anti-abortion agenda. As a devout Catholic who speaks eloquently about her own past abortion and the adverse consequences she believes it caused, Bravo is committed to eradicating the practice in America. She believes Obria is “saving babies” and “impacting the culture” by offering a less overtly religious option that functions a lot like your grandmother’s crisis pregnancy center, but with better branding:

I’m a business woman and I brought a business model to this. The pregnancy center movement came out of my mother’s generation and it’s all compassion and love and heart, with lots of volunteers. But when you create a full medical model you have a plan, and you hire people. Our nurses are young, strong Christians, who are pro-life and love what they do.

A prospective patient taking a cursory look at their online brand, however, could easily walk away with no idea that they’re placing their health in the hands of religiously-motivated nurses more committed to an anti-abortion ideology than the holistic patient-first model the website promises.

The part of the site aimed at clinics considering membership in the Obria family of clinics is only slightly more forthright. They explicitly speak of “extending the pro-life reach” as a key goal, referring to their target demographic as “abortion-vulnerable women.”

Crisis pregnancy centers have always positioned themselves as saviors for women in need, but never so lucratively or successfully. As Planned Parenthood faces the loss of Title X funding, Obria Medical Clinics received a grant from the Trump White House for up to $5.1 million. They are eligible where Planned Parenthood is not because they neither provide abortions nor refer clients to abortion providers.

In response to a POLITICO article, which claimed that Bravo had once dismissed a nurse for proselytizing, the Obria founder made her position on the subject clear:

This is simply untrue! Our faith is highly woven throughout the clinics. Our nurses are highly qualified to provide holistic care for our patients — caring for her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

It seems like Obria is willing to own its Christian bias absolutely everywhere… except on the website most “abortion-vulnerable women” will find as they seek resources to cope with an unplanned pregnancy. The intent to deceive and entrap prospective patients couldn’t be clearer.

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