Planned Parenthood, New Life Clinic: Dichotomies confronted on Claiborne

Olivia Warren, Associate News Editor

On the busy roads of S. Claiborne Avenue, two seemingly similar businesses sit: Planned Parenthood and the Women’s New Life Clinic. Both businesses aim to assist people with reproductive needs in very different ways. (Hannah Levitan)

Amid the bustle of South Claiborne Avenue, on either side of a black metal fence, sit two seemingly similar businesses: Planned Parenthood and the Woman’s New Life Clinic.

Planned Parenthood is a national nonprofit focused on reproductive healthcare, education and advocacy. It arrived in New Orleans in 2016.

On the other side of the fence is the Woman’s New Life Clinic. It was created to fulfill “a great need for women and unplanned pregnancy … beyond the medical services,” CEO Allison Daigle said. It opened in New Orleans in 2016, a few months after Planned Parenthood.

Petrice Sams-Abiodun, vice president of strategic partnerships for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, started as a teenage sex education volunteer for Planned Parenthood. 

“I learned at that time, when a woman controls her body, she controls her life,” Abiodun said. “It helped me to not become a teen parent.”

Now, Louisiana law prohibits any abortion provider or affiliate from “delivering any instruction or program on any health topic” in schools, so Sams-Abiodun would not have that opportunity today. 

Daigle echoed the value of independence. “Take care of yourself and have this autonomy,” she said. “We want to make sure you really, really know all that’s involved: how you get pregnant, how you don’t get pregnant.”

The Woman’s New Life Clinic offers several services for women of reproductive age, including removal of IUDs and contraceptive implants, financial assistance, licensed counseling, nurse practitioners, fertility instruction, prenatal care, pregnancy testing and STD testing and treatment. They offer material support for mothers such as kids clothing, diapers, baby wipes, formula, pack-and-plays, car seats and strollers. Many of their services are free.

“We don’t offer abortion, or refer for it. And we know that those end lives. So what we offer are life-affirming services,” Daigle said.

The Woman’s New Life Clinic does not offer condoms or medical contraception. Daigle called contraceptives “abortifacients,” which is “any substance that is used to terminate a pregnancy,” according to ScienceDirect.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “contraceptives that prevent fertilization from occurring, or even prevent implantation, are simply not abortifacients.”

Tulane University professor Karissa Haugeberg, author of “Women Against Abortion: Inside the Largest Moral Reform Movement of the Twentieth Century,” said while the Woman’s New Life Clinic offers fertility methods to prevent pregnancy, “they are simultaneously withholding information about FDA-approved methods that are far more effective.”

Haugeberg called the Woman’s New Life Clinic a “crisis pregnancy center,” and said it has an “agenda to dissuade women or pregnant people from having abortions.” 

Daigle said the Woman’s New Life Clinic is not a crisis pregnancy center. “We call ourselves a medical and professional mental health clinic,” she said. 

“Having a person in a lab coat or a person with an MD or an RN degree is not the same as offering care that has been vetted and is recommended by the American Medical Association,” Haugeberg said.

A Google search of “crisis pregnancy center,” when in New Orleans, will show the Woman’s New Life Clinic as a top location.

“We are a clinic that wants to inform women and make sure she knows what all of her options are,” Daigle said. “In an abortion clinic, there’s a singular focus, and that is to terminate a pregnancy.”

“If you come here to Planned Parenthood, and you have a positive pregnancy test, we share with you all of your options,” Sams-Abiodun said. “Carry a pregnancy to term, have an adoption, an abortion.”

Planned Parenthood in New Orleans was never licensed to provide abortion, but before abortion became illegal in Louisiana, they provided referrals. 

Planned Parenthood applied for an abortion-provider license when they arrived in 2016 but was “in litigation with the state during the time of the Dobbs decision, but now it’s pretty much a moot point,” Sams-Abiodun said. 

Now, Planned Parenthood offers “patient navigators” for patients seeking abortion resources for referrals, travel, accommodations, financing, childcare, food and more, according to Sams-Abiodun. 

They also offer contraceptives, transgender hormone therapy, counseling, fertility tracking methods, family planning, sex education, STD testing and treatment and more. 

“When people go in [the Woman’s New Life Clinic], they’re … getting biased counseling,” Sams-Abiodun said. “It’s not medically accurate.”

Sams-Abiodun referred to the abortion reversal pill, a free service offered by the Woman’s New Life Clinic. 

“It’s just medication that’s completely, 100 percent safe for the woman. It’s even safe for her child,” Daigle said. 

The abortion reversal pill is meant to stop medication abortion by releasing progesterone. Medication abortion is a two-step pill process, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. 

The FDA has not reviewed progesterone for abortion reversal. The ACOG calls the abortion reversal pill “unproven and unethical.

“We have to continue to defend reproductive healthcare, because they’re not finished with abortion,” Sams-Abiodun said. “They’re coming after contraceptives, they’re coming up with trans-bans, they’re coming across all these intersectional issues that are impacting all people but especially those who are most marginalized and oppressed, black and brown people.” 

Daigle said the Woman’s New Life Clinic does not engage in activism or lobbying.

“I’m assuming there’s some biases going on there,” Olivia French, president of the Tulane chapter of Medical Students for Choice, said. “I’m not supportive of that. But I’m supportive of the woman that makes the choice to go there.”

Whatever choice a client makes, even to seek an abortion, Daigle said the Woman’s New Life Clinic will treat them with “love and respect.”

“I just question how coercion and dispensing misleading information and dispensing scientifically inaccurate information … aligns with a commitment to love,” Haugeberg said.

“This is part of a larger story about disinformation,” Haugeberg said. “It’s about what do we think is fact and who controls what’s fact.”

Louisiana law mandates that sex education emphasizes abstinence. Sex education cannot “counsel or advocate abortion,” depict homosexual activity or distribute any “contraceptive or abortifacient drug, device, or other similar product.” No form of sex education is required in the state.

“I have daughters, and it’s super important to me that they understand how their bodies work,” Daigle said.

Between 1973 and 2020, Louisiana passed 89 abortion restrictions; more than any other state, according to the Guttmacher Institute. 

“What kind of legacy am I going to leave my daughter here in Louisiana?” Sams-Abiodun said. “What kind of place am I going to leave them where they have fewer rights than I had?”

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