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Alternatives, a "pro-life" pregnancy center in Kalamazoo, opens a second location

A tight shot of a group prayer, with the laying on of hands on the executive director, volunteers and staff.  The shot includes a woman in an orange shirt with a wedding ring, resting her hand on the shoulder of a dark haired woman, who is also in an orange top. Another woman, in white with white polka dot shirt over a white turtleneck, rests her hand, gloved in black, on the same shoulder, but closer to her neck.  You can't see the faces of the three women.
Leona Larson
About a dozen people gathered for the official grand opening of Alternatives Care Centers Burdick House in Kalamazoo. A local pastor led a "laying on of hands" prayer over the executive director, volunteers and staff.

Michigan's attorney general has accused crisis pregnancy centers of using deceptive tactics to dissuade clients from having abortions.

Alternatives Care Centers opened its new Burdick Street office on Wednesday with a prayer.

Executive director Cathy Stoner said the location is close to where the group started 40 years ago. Stoner said the Burdick office in the Edison neighborhood will provide free pregnancy tests, maternity and baby supplies.

“We thought, 'Well, this will be a great opportunity to come back to where people are struggling to get the help they need. How can we meet their need more readily?'"

Stoner said the Burdick location will help people who lack transportation and cannot get to its Michigan Avenue location, which is across the street from Planned Parenthood's Kalamazoo clinic. She added that the new office was not opened in reaction to Proposal 3, which enshrined reproductive rights in Michigan’s constitution. But she said the proposal did inspire organizations like hers.

“I know that we want to be better, we want to make sure that what we're doing collectively, is putting forward our very best effort for our communities. And I think that's what you're going to see.”

Alternative Care Centers Burdick House is a two-story early 20th century house with dull yellow siding and black shutters.
Leona Larson
Alternative Care Centers Burdick House is using lawn signs temporarily until a permanent sign can be affixed to the building. The lawn signs will be out when the center is open, Wednesdays by appointment, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Last fall, 16 state attorneys general, including Michigan’s Dana Nessel, signed a letter criticizing crisis pregnancy centers — organizations that oppose abortion and often locate near abortion providers. The letter claimed that CPCs frequently mislead consumers in an effort to prevent them from getting abortions.

"Studies, news reports, investigations, and other evidence suggest that CPCs frequently use deceptive and unethical methods to lure pregnant people who are seeking comprehensive reproductive healthcare—including abortion—into their centers. And when those people visit, CPCs often provide inaccurate and deceptive information about reproductive health," the signatories write.

Stoner called the term "crisis pregnancy center" outdated, and she insisted that Alternatives does not deceive its clients and should not be conflated with groups that do. She said Alternatives' advisors are trained not to misrepresent its services.

Stoner added that when someone calls or visits, “We would be honest with them that we do not refer for or provide abortions. We don't hide anything about who we are. Our website is clear. We're very careful about that. Because no one wants to be manipulated. No one.”

Alternatives' website mentions at the bottom of the home page that the group does not provide abortions or referrals for the procedure. However, the page mentions abortion several times before that disclosure.

"Our mission is to provide support through access to complete and accurate information about prenatal development, abortion, adoption, parenting, and STIs," Alternatives writes near the top of its page.

"We are in a unique position to help empower you to make the best decision for your situation through no cost pregnancy testing, ultrasound, and post-abortion healing while also planning a safe future through no cost STI screening," it continues.

Alternative Care Centers has a third location in Battle Creek. Stoner said that the Michigan Avenue and Battle Creek locations provide “limited” ultrasounds and basic STD testing.


Leona has worked as a journalist for most of her life - in radio, print, television and as journalism instructor. She has a background in consumer news, special projects and investigative reporting.