On this International Abortion Rights Day, some forty pro-choice activists marched in Châteauguay to denounce the practices of the Options pregnancy center and the possible opening of its shelter for young pregnant women.
The demonstrators gathered in the parking lot of the feminist organization Quartier des Femmes, on Principale Street, then went to the premises of the Options center, located on D’Anjou Boulevard. According to them, this group, which is based on the Christian faith, does not really offer all the options in the face of an unplanned pregnancy, contrary to what it claims.
Gabrielle Juneau, general manager of the Quartier des Femmes, assures that young women have reported to her questionable practices on the part of the Center Options. They turned to the Quartier des Femmes after bad experiences with Options.
One of these testimonies was read anonymously during the demonstration.
It was Catherine Caza, member of the Comité Femmes Vigilantes, who read it.
“Never was the option of termination of pregnancy named and explained to me straight away by the woman who saw me [chez Options]. When I spoke about this eventuality, I was told that if I wanted to end my pregnancy, I could no longer benefit from their services, because they would do nothing with the voluntary termination of pregnancy. The woman who saw me also began to name me several risks related to the voluntary termination of pregnancy on my sexual health and on my body.
According to the testimony, the worker from the Options Center would also have called her several times after a first meeting “to discuss the continuation of her pregnancy”, which the woman would have refused each time.
Options defends itself
During the demonstration in front of the offices of the Options Centre, the organization’s communications director, Suzy McVeigh DiBiaso, came out to meet the activists. She maintained that the group discusses in a neutral way all the choices concerning an unwanted pregnancy with young women.
Some activists exchanged with Ms. McVeigh DiBiaso but others continued to demonstrate. In interview with The Sun of ChateauguayMrs. McVeigh DiBiaso deplored the lack of listening of the demonstrators.
Suzy McVeigh DiBiaso came out to meet the activists in front of the Options Center office. (Photo: The Sun – Paula Dayan-Perez)
Mylène Dionne, a mother of three children was on hand and defended the work of the organization. The latter had asked for their help, such as donations and support, with her first two children. In 2021, when she unwittingly became pregnant, she consulted with them regarding her choices.
“Never, with that last pregnancy, did I feel like I had to keep her. On the contrary, I felt as if I had to keep it then I was reassured to say that if I wanted to have an abortion, it was a possibility then it could be something that could be interesting for me. But I was really presented with the three choices in neutral”, she expresses.
According to Ms. McVeigh DiBiaso, the testimony read at the protest was not an example of the service offered by the Centre. She also wondered about the date of the comments collected, since the Options group changed administration in 2017 in order to become more neutral.
Ms. Juneau, from the Quartier des Femmes, assures us that the testimony was collected in recent months.
Gabrielle Juneau spoke to the demonstrators before starting the march: the Quartier des Femmes now offers a support service for the voluntary termination of pregnancy for young women aged 14 and over. (Photo: The Sun – Paula Dayan-Perez)
Only Christian employees
The director of the Quartier des Femmes also contested the fact that the Options Center indicates on its job offers that it hires only Christians.
In a list of qualifications required to work at Options, the organization indicates that the candidate must be “a committed Christian who demonstrates a vital walk with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord”, can we read on the job posting published on the site of Jeunesse Sans Limite, a charity organization of which the Center Options is a member.
The person must in particular “dedicate time to prayer, to the study of the Bible, to periodic retreats and to receiving spiritual guidance”.
Ms. McVeigh DiBiaso confirms that Options only employs Christian people. She also points out that the organization applies a “holistic” approach, which leaves room for dialogue not only about pregnancy or housing, but also about the “spiritual aspect” of clients who wish to discuss it.
“Our services are for everyone but if there is spiritual exploration, we do it through the prism of Christianity, but without pressure. It’s 100% the people’s choice,” she said.
What does it mean to leave room for spirituality?
“We just have discussions in general, she replies. For example, in our moms group, I might be sharing something about my life and there might be a spiritual aspect to it because I’m a spiritual person. I would say it is extremely rare for a spiritual discussion to take place in our regular moms group.”
Ms. McVeigh DiBiaso assures that during the first meetings with women who are wondering about an unplanned pregnancy, the staff does not share her opinions or her experience.
“Even during the pregnancy options support meeting, in our reception, one of the questions we ask is: do you have any spiritual beliefs, do you have a faith?, she adds. Sometimes it is interesting to know if a person, even before becoming pregnant, had ideas about pregnancy, maintaining a pregnancy, adoption or abortion.
Earlier this year, the Options Center announced that it had purchased a former residence for seniors in Châteauguay to convert it into a transition house for pregnant teenagers or those who already have children. The opening is scheduled for this fall.
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