As reproductive care options shrink in Kamloops, crisis pregnancy centre raises questions

Hopewell Clinic and Pregnancy Centre Society is one of over 20 organizations in B.C. claiming to offer support to pregnant people. The Wren breaks down what these organizations are and how to make informed choices about care.
Metal sign that reads Hopewell Clinic
Hopewell Clinic and Pregnancy Centre Society is located at 429 Tranquille Rd. and neighbours ASK Wellness Society. The Wren looked into its mandate and practices after receiving reader concerns. Kyra Grubb/The Wren

With the largest maternity care clinic in Kamloops, Thompson Region Family Obstetrics Clinic (TRFO), set to close this summer due to staffing shortages, support options for pregnant people are dwindling in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. 

TRFO provides the most birthing services to pregnant people in Kamloops, but few reproductive care options exist outside of that clinic. For both birth care and surgical abortions, pregnant people must rely predominantly on local and regional hospitals.

In Kamloops specifically, one medical facility outside of TRFO remains — Supporting Team Excellence with Patients (STEPs). 

According to the Interior Health website, STEPs is the only provider in Kamloops that offers medical abortions. Those who live in Kamloops but are further along in their pregnancies and need a surgical abortion must currently travel to Kelowna General Hospital’s Women’s Services Clinic.

While very few medical facilities that offer support for pregnant people exist in the region, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) reports there are five active crisis pregnancy centres located in Interior Health’s service area. 

Crisis pregnancy centres offer counselling to those experiencing unplanned pregnancies. At least three local centres — in Kamloops, Kelowna and Vernon — are openly faith-based.

Across Canada, these types of clinics have previously been accused of engaging in coercive behaviour towards clients and discouraging visitors from seeking abortions.

In Kamloops, the Hopewell Clinic and Pregnancy Centre Society has been active since 2007 and says it offers counselling, pregnancy support and parent programming. 

After the city announced the recipients of the 2023 Social and Community Development Grants, The Wren received emails from readers expressing concerns that Hopewell, a faith-based not-for-profit, was among the organizations receiving funds.

The grants are intended to fund “special projects, operational costs, and/or capital expenditures that address specific current social problems and/or issues that are identified in the city’s social plan.” Hopewell was given $6,656 through the initiative.

While Hopewell is a registered charitable organization and therefore eligible for the city’s grant, the federal Liberal party promised in its 2021 election platform to “no longer provide charity status to anti-abortion organizations (for example, Crisis Pregnancy Centres) that provide dishonest counselling to women … at all stages of the pregnancy.”

The federal government has not taken concrete steps to implement this promise, but it maintains the changes will be made soon.

In an email with The Wren, Hopewell executive director Maureen Colledge said she believes the Liberal party’s mandate wouldn’t affect Hopewell as she says the clinic does not provide “dishonest counselling to pregnant women about their rights and options.”

In a black-and-white photograph, Maureen Colledge, a blonde woman with glasses, smiles.
Maureen Colledge is a registered nurse. She says her nursing background informs decision-making at Hopewell Clinic. Photo provided by Maureen Colledge

Based on readers’ concerns, The Wren independently researched Hopewell and saw its website did not offer online medical information about abortion and instead encouraged visitors to make an appointment to learn about their options. Videos on the organization’s website produced by Hopewell were exclusively focused on clients who chose to become parents, many of whom followed a faith-based path.

A prior donation Hopewell made to a known anti-choice organization was also cause for investigation.

What followed included multiple emails and an in-person conversation with Colledge, extensive research on the Interior region’s options for reproductive care and a wider look at research about crisis pregnancy centres in Canada.

Advocacy organization flags misinformation, anti-abortion rhetoric

Unlike facilities that provide reproductive health care to people with uteruses or who are pregnant, a large number of crisis pregnancy centres are nonmedical facilities and provide information and counselling to people experiencing unplanned pregnancies.

Crisis pregnancy centres often identify as religious and many are known to operate under the belief that life begins at conception or that abortions should be discouraged. 

While services and programs offered at crisis pregnancy centres can benefit pregnant people, reproductive rights advocates warn these centres can negatively affect clients seeking information about abortions.

In B.C., crisis pregnancy centres outnumber medical facilities that provide abortion healthcare. ​​According to the ARCC, as of Jan. 6, 2023, there were 23 crisis pregnancy centres in B.C., while the Interior Health website lists 12 options for abortion care across the province.

Additionally, while provincial hospitals and medical care centres are often overloaded with patients and may have longer wait times, crisis pregnancy centres in B.C. typically advertise themselves as available for same-day services or easily-booked appointments.

The Hopewell Clinic and Pregnancy Centre Society is on a lengthy list of alleged anti-choice groups in Canada compiled by the ARCC. In the list, Hopewell is flagged as a religious charity affiliated with various national crisis pregnancy organizations.

In a 2022 interview with The Wren’s sister publication, The Discourse, ARCC Executive Director Joyce Arthur said crisis pregnancy centres should raise red flags. 

Arthur has long been following crisis pregnancy centres and the information they provide to clients. In a 2016 study she partly authored, a majority of crisis pregnancy centre websites were found to lack disclaimers stating that they do not offer referrals to clients who need contraceptives or abortions. The sites also sometimes presented medically inaccurate and misleading information. 

Arthur told The Discourse she worries crisis pregnancy centres are infused with “traditional biblical morality.”

“The staff might be well-meaning and nice and want to help people, but they have this belief that abortion is bad for women, it’s just naturally bad, it’s going to harm them and it’s not a natural thing to do,” Arthur said in her interview with The Discourse. “So they’re coming from that belief and then they are trying to help but it’s really based on a false belief.”

Hopewell Clinic and Pregnancy Centre Society responds

In an in-person interview with The Wren, Colledge stated Hopewell Clinic and Pregnancy Centre Society independently informs how its clients are counselled. Colledge said she and a few others who work at Hopewell are registered nurses and that their nursing backgrounds inform a majority of their methodology. 

Regarding options counselling for pregnancy, Colledge says, “it’s about informed decision-making. As nurses, we learn how to present someone with information and help them with decision-making. Which typically looks like [informing clients] of their pros and cons.”

Colledge says the Ottawa Personal Decision-Making Guide is used at Hopewell to walk clients through the pros and cons of parenting, adoption and abortion options. 

The guide encourages users to compare the outcomes of a decision and was created by researchers from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa.

“I find that it’s is a really great tool to use [when assisting in] making health and social-related decisions,” Colledge says. 

Colledge says the centre also provides information in line with HealthLinkBC guidance on abortion, including both surgical and medical options, as well as STI testing and pap smears. She adds Hopewell has a medical advisory team made up of physicians and registered nurses who oversee the centre’s policies and the clinic’s nursing team is “regulated by the Health Professions Act … [and] registered with Health Insurance BC through the Medical Services Plan.”

In an email with The Wren, Colledge stated Hopewell’s registered nurses provide medically accurate information about pregnancy and options available to pregnant people, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, unexpected pregnancy support and perinatal outreach. All appointments are client-led and consent-based, she wrote.

In that email, she also stated pregnant people are referred to primary care providers regardless of their decision. While Hopewell’s registered nurses can offer education, resources and support up to a certain point, primary care providers are relied upon to provide medical care beyond Hopewell’s scope. 

Further, Colledge stated regardless of a pregnant person’s decision, Hopewell’s registered nurses continue to provide care. Clients who choose to make an adoption plan are provided with prenatal education and support, a doula for birth and grief support afterwards. 

Clients who choose to carry a pregnancy to term and parent are offered family resources, including free prenatal vitamins, perinatal education, support groups and access to Hopewell’s Blessing Boutique.

On the left, children's toys are set onto shelves. On the right, three rows of children's clothes hang on racks in a large closet.
At Hopewell, parents can access three boutiques stocked with donated infant, toddler and maternity clothes, diapers, wipes, formula, car seats, cribs, strollers and more. Executive director Maureen Colledge says the centre is always accepting donations but is currently in need of formula. Kyra Grubb / The Wren

Clients who choose to terminate their pregnancy are offered perinatal loss support. While many clients do not require access to perinatal loss support, Colledge says there are some who request the service. Hopewell also receives referrals from outside agencies and healthcare providers for its perinatal loss support service. 

Colledge says support for Hopewell’s clients continues until children enter kindergarten. Regardless of a pregnant person’s choice, “we remain committed to caring for our clients regardless of their decision.”

In a consecutive email, she went on to state, “as an executive director, I work hard to ensure that what our clinic staff says and provides is medically accurate. We offer client-led and permission-based services. I do believe that any charitable organization that provides dishonest services should be under scrutiny. That is not Hopewell.”

Other Interior crisis centres more openly pro-life

Within the Interior region, other crisis pregnancy centres outwardly show a close link to anti-choice rhetoric.

The Okanagan Valley Pregnancy Care Centre (OVPCC) in Kelowna, located blocks away from the hospital, states on its website that it is a direct affiliate of Pregnancy Care Canada (PCC), a national organization dedicated to establishing and supporting crisis pregnancy centres. Hopewell is also an affiliate of PCC.

Registered as a charity since 2005, OVPCC claims to offer pregnancy options counselling and “post-abortion support.”

On its website, OVPCC writes, “We affirm life by empowering women. We empower women by affirming life.” On another page, the centre cautions, “We don’t offer or recommend for abortions.”

The Wren was able to examine core PCC training documents originally provided to The Discourse that affiliate organizations — like OVPCC — and their staff are expected to adhere to. 

The documents include statements of faith and principles, a code of counselling ethics, a stewardship policy, the organization’s commitment to care and competence and volunteer training guidelines.

A line within the core documents states, “PCC-affiliated centres do not provide or assist in arranging abortions or abortifacients,” and includes a sanctity of life statement that declares all people, including “preborn” children, have value and worth from conception to death.

A statement of faith within the documents names the Holy Scriptures as “the only supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.”  

According to Government of Canada charity reports, the Kamloops Hopewell clinic donated $2,000 to PCC (then named the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services) in 2017. Colledge told The Wren Hopewell does not receive medical training from PCC and alleged the training materials The Wren examined were out of date.

The Vernon Live Well Clinic (VLWC), another faith-based organization, claims to offer similar counselling services in addition to resources for parents and students about sex.

VLWC advertises abstinence-centred sexual education workshops for schools with an aim “to balance informing students about the real life risks and consequences of sexual activity and yet not portray sex in a negative tone” and a focus on the dangers of pornography and STIs.

In Nov. 2022, the nonprofit hosted a fundraising event featuring speaker Natasha Smith, co-author of a book advertised as the “ideal resource for churches and individuals who want to make a difference in the pro-life movement.” Many of the clinic’s events are hosted at a local evangelic church.

City grant to fund Hopewell operational expenses

Colledge says Hopewell plans to use the city’s Social and Community Grant on program costs and staff compensation for the centre’s Wholistic Wellness Initiative.

In an email with The Wren, she provided an outline of programs within the Wholistic Wellness Initiative. Hopewell received $6,656 from the city to help fund mothers’ support groups “that focus on building community, mental health and life skills.” 

The initiative’s programs also focus on increasing food security in clients, supporting parents experiencing or recovering from addiction and offering support for clients experiencing family violence. 

In a series of emails sent in early February between a resident and City Councillors Dale Bass and Katie Neustaeter, the resident expressed their dissatisfaction with city resources being given to the Hopewell Clinic.

The initial response came from Bass, at the time in her capacity as deputy mayor, who explained the Social and Community Development Grant recipients are decided by community members belonging to the city’s Social Planning Engagement Group.

Bass also included the project summary provided by Hopewell that the group evaluated. She wrote the Wholistic Wellness Initiative was described to the group as providing “a peer mentoring/coaching initiative that improves the health and wellness of women and their children up to 5 years of life, with a focus on whole person care.”

“Our concern is not with Hopewell Clinic, they have the right to their views,” the resident’s responding email states. “Our concern is if the Council feels that the Clinics views align with that of the community as stated in your criteria.”

Neustaeter was next to respond and provided more context on council’s role in the grant process.

“When the working group is evaluating grant applications, they are assessing the project or initiative that the organization is applying for, and how the proposed activities will ultimately support the goals of a healthy community,” she wrote. “Council only votes to receive the report. Elected officials do not, in any way, vote on the recipients of the grants or approve them.”

Councilor Bass reiterated this in an email sent to The Wren after publication. 

Further, the City’s ​​social, housing, and community development manager, Carmin Mazzotta, provided additional context about the city’s grant allocation process concerning Hopewell. 

In an email, he wrote, “when members of Council received concerns [about Hopewell] from the community, staff initiated a further review of materials submitted, as well as publicly available materials pertaining to Hopewell, as these concerns were taken seriously.”

He went on to write that members of the Social Planning and Engagement Group, as well as city staff, saw no cause for concern and commented that Hopewell’s application was “highly rated in the application scoring matrix.”

Hopewell’s application was submitted with letters of support attached from highly reputable social agencies that the City works with frequently, he wrote. 

“These letters of support describe the services at Hopewell as ‘a safe and comfortable environment,’ ‘inviting, non-judgmental, and professional.’ Both agencies cited positive feedback from clients accessing Hopewell, and both highlighted the importance of the work that Hopewell does in the community,” Mazzotta wrote.

Mazzotta confirmed the Social and Community Development Grant received by Hopewell does not support their general operations and is indeed for the Wholistic Wellness Initiative.  

Lastly, Mazzotta stated that as a result of community concerns, the Social Planning Engagement Group discussed “the annual process of reviewing the criteria and adjudication process with a goal of improving the evaluation process for grant applications.”

“The City is committed to this practice of review as part of a continual improvement process. Additionally, applicable goals to social and community development work in Council’s new strategic plan (once established) will be reviewed and incorporated into the coming year’s grant application criteria,” Mazzotta said.

As the Thompson Region Family Obstetrics Clinic prepares to close in the coming months, pregnant people living in the Kamloops region may face increased uncertainty about their reproductive health options.

While the Hopewell clinic is one of those options when it comes to choice counselling, non-religious medical facilities like STEPs are also available to support residents and can more effectively refer patients for services like abortions.

Those seeking an abortion or who would like information on their options can visit to learn more about the region’s services. Those living in Kamloops who require medical counselling concerning pregnancy and abortion can also contact STEPs.

Editor’s Note, March 15, 2023: This article has been updated to reflect information provided by the City of Kamloops after publication. It has also been updated to clarify that Hopewell Clinic and Pregnancy Care Society provides STI and pap testing.

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