Anti-Choice Protester: Women’s Health Clinic Moving Next to WIC Center Like Putting ‘a Brothel Next to a School’

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Anti-Choice Protester: Women’s Health Clinic Moving Next to WIC Center Like Putting ‘a Brothel Next to a School’

Robin Marty

A group of anti-choice activists wants to stop Sacramento's Women's Health Specialists, a full-spectrum reproductive health-care provider, from moving into the same complex as a Women, Infants, and Children center.

Women’s Health Specialists in Sacramento, California, is a full-spectrum reproductive health-care provider that offers abortion care, contraception, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, prenatal care, midwifery and adoption referrals, and well-woman care. The clinic is in the process of moving locations to a complex that it will share with a Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) center—a fact that is rankling local anti-choice activists, who are trying to force the owner of the complex to break Women’s Health Specialists’ new lease.

According to the local ABC affiliate, the protest is being organized by Al Rhomberg, who said of Women’s Health Specialists’ new location, “It just seems to be an outrageous thing, similar to putting, I don’t know, a porn shop or a pawn shop or something similar, a brothel, next to a school.”

WIC is a government-funded program that offers nutrition and other support services to low-income women and their children.

Ethan Conrad, the building’s owner, told the Sacramento Bee, “I’m bound to the terms of the lease. The protesters act as if I can break the lease, which is pretty mind-boggling. [They] want me to break the law and not perform the terms of the contract. C’mon.” But he added that the clinic’s lease includes restrictions on how many abortions it can perform.

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“It’s not some abortion clinic that’s cranking out abortions,” he said. “They provide all kind of health services. Ninety-five percent of their services are non-abortion-related.”

Still, he said, he did negotiate with Women’s Health Specialists to place a “tight” restriction on the number of abortions that they could perform at the location. He declined, however, to specify the number.

Rhomberg, the lead protester, is a longtime anti-choice activist. He was arrested in the early ’90s for disrupting then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s inaugural church service, arguing that because the governor supported abortion it was inappropriate for him to have an event in a Catholic church. In 1992 he attempted to stop the city from allowing Planned Parenthood to lease space in its civic center; he said he and his supporters were “opposed to their [Planned Parenthood’s] ideals.” And in 1996 he was involved in a special interest group called the U.S. Catholic Coalition, which ran ads stating that Catholics “may not vote for an abortion candidate—may not vote for Clinton.”

Although California politicians have generally not been hostile to reproductive rights, and some efforts are underway to expand abortion access, there has also been an uptick in local efforts to shut down providers in the state. Most recently, an anti-choice group in Bakersfield has been pushing for a citywide ban on abortions; the city council has rejected the move as unconstitutional.