Kathleen Eaton Bravo Changes Course for Pro-Life BirthChoice

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On Thursday, Nov. 6, pro-life activist Kathleen Eaton Bravo stood up in front of a ballroom packed with employees, supporters and guests — including Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange — at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, California, and announced a radical change for the organization she founded in 1986.

As of February 1, BirthChoice Health Clinics will become Obria™ Medical Clinics, a rebranding that also represents a broadening of the focus for the current network of six medical clinics and one mobile clinic in Orange and Los Angeles Counties, which provides a variety of free medical services for women, particularly women (and men) facing crisis pregnancies.

Functioning in part as an alternative to Planned Parenthood, BirthChoice does not perform abortions or refer for abortions, but it does offer pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, STD testing, well-woman exams (including pelvic exams and Pap smears), referral for low-cost mammograms and prenatal care. It also counsels women on all the risks of birth control, emergency contraception and abortion, along with educating both mothers- and fathers-to-be on parenting and adoption.

In her address, Bravo talked about making the change from being pregnancy resource centers, giving out “Pampers and a prayer,” to full-service medical facilities.

“We took three pregnancy centers medical in 2006 and the beginning of 2007,” she said. “Instead of 500 women a year, we immediately went above 10,000, men and women. We went from a pregnancy test and an ultrasound — which, by the way, in our clinics, from 87 percent to 92 percent of the women and men who come in and see their baby in the womb and hear the heartbeat change their minds and choose life for the unborn child.”

She continued, “We’re doing well-women care. Why? Because Planned Parenthood did well-women care, too. We had to do women’s Paps, to get more and more of these young people in, because they have to have their exams, if they’re sexually active.

“We do cancer screening; we do prenatal care. We were really happy, and then all of a sudden, something started coming at us called the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.”

With Planned Parenthood being listed as a primary-care provider in California, BirthChoice has already responded by partnering with the Lestonnac Free Clinic in Orange, and with the Hurtt Family Health Clinic in Santa Ana, to offer patients care beyond the sexual-health treatment and information they get at BirthChoice.

Speaking to the Orange County Catholic News, Bravo said, “This medical collaboration model, which joins like-minded clinics, is a revolutionary development in health care. Not only do these treasured partnerships save BirthChoice crucial funding, they also provide our underserved, low-income patients with access to Kathleen-Eaton-Bravocomprehensive and specialized health resources, both for themselves and their families.”

But to truly take on Planned Parenthood, with its close relationship with pro-abortion politicians and hundreds of millions in government funding, Bravo has decided, with the assistance of her donors and board of directors, to take a page from the abortion provider’s playbook.

After years of consultation and the hiring of an outside branding company, BirthChoice is changing its name (and it’s no accident that the first two letters of that new name are ‘ob’).

“We got a name that we could trademark,” Bravo said, “and hold it, and nobody else can. We own the URL; we own the dot.com, the dot.org, the dot.net. We have it trademarked nationally, and our legal team on the board is now trademarking it internationally.

“It’s Obria Medical Clinics. Obra, the core word, in Spanish, means ‘works,’ and our brand will be the good work we’re doing.”

The organization is also expanding its reach.

“We’ve copied Planned Parenthood’s affiliate model,” said Bravo at the gala. “So what we’ve done is we’ve created the Obria Foundation, and umbrella corporation. I’ve actually moved over there with some of the staff. Jennifer Wallace and her staff have taken over the medical clinics. Our board will be a board for both organizations.”

The current clinics, as well as other clinics throughout California, will, as Bravo put it, “do business as an affiliate of Obria Medical Clinics, and their clinic will say, Obria Medical Clinics. We will import to them our intellectual property, years of hard work that has been developed by a board of directors, by consultants, by my staff, by many of you we’ve reached out to.

“That model is going to go throughout California first. Why California? The abortion rate in California is 40 percent above the national average. … Ladies and gentleman, we are ground zero. We are the killing fields.”

She said, “The need for us to brand this Obria Medical Clinic as soon as possible has become an urgency. Twenty-three groups have already called us from up and down the state to say, ‘We’re ready. Give us the paperwork to sign it. Let’s do this.’ This is unheard-of in the prolife movement. I’m being contacted from Denver and Seattle, Washington, D.C., New York and Florida, [saying]‘please come.’ Texas, Detroit.

“We haven’t even spread the word yet. Tonight’s the first night.”

While BirthChoice adheres to the Catholic pro-life ethic and has a great deal of Catholic support, not everyone at the organization is Catholic, and not all of them are women. Staffer Keith Cotton, talking to CatholicVote after addressing a breakfast for Orange County Catholic professionals, said he came to the movement from working in ministry at Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback megachurch.

“The irony is,” said Cotton, “with my background in law enforcement and everything I’ve done, and being adopted, I’ve never known that I was going to end up in a pro-life mission. … We need to find a voice in every church, regardless of the denomination that will stand for pro-life. That’s where the difference begins.”

As a woman who has endured the trauma of having an abortion, Bravo has made it her mission to save mothers, and their children, from having to suffer what she did.

“When we started this,” she said “It was ‘save the child in the womb.’ As Christians, we believe in the sanctity of life, from conception to natural death. When I got into this, I wanted to make sure that every women I came in contact with, would not make the same mistake I did.

“But today, the need of these pro-life, life-affirming clinics — I can’t even put it into words. … Ladies and gentlemen, women don’t die from a crisis pregnancy. The baby will die if we can’t reach them. Our children are dying.”

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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A native of the Adirondacks and Saratoga Springs in northern New York State, journalist and fiction writer Kate O'Hare now lives in Los Angeles, where she's on a neverending quest to find a parish in the L.A. Archdiocese with orthodox preaching, excellent traditional music and parking.

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