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Clinic in Whitefish opens as demonstrators launch 40-day anti-abortion campaign

The interior of All Families Healthcare clinic in Whitefish.jpg

The All Families Healthcare clinic is starting a new chapter in the Flathead community.

As the only clinic that provides abortion services in the area, they’ve found strong support as well as opposition.

Demonstrators with the 40 Days for Life campaign have become a regular sight on Highway 93 going into Whitefish.

Cold weather and snow have not stopped them as they volunteer taking turns doing hour-long shifts in front of the clinic’s new location with signs that read “Pray for abortion to end.”

Some 354 24-hour prayer vigils have been organized outside abortion clinics across the nation as part of the campaign launched Feb. 14.

Supporters know the protests are nothing new.

Four years ago the clinic was vandalized and destroyed at its old location in Kalispell.

"People believe this is primarily an abortion clinic, and I’d like to say it really is not. This is a comprehensive health care facility led by two highly skilled nurse practitioners," said Dr. Betty Kuffle, of Big Sky Rising.

"The most important part of what we're doing is helping women and families plan their pregnancies," said Helen Weems, one of the nurse practitioners at the clinic, who relocated from Seattle.

Laura Dickerson, a volunteer with 40 Days for Life, says they’ve had hundreds volunteer for the round-the-clock campaign which is slated to end March 25.

"We pray for the unborn. We believe those unborn are children, they are babies," she said.

But supporters say the clinic is filling in health care gaps for adolescents, transgender and low-income patients in the Flathead community and that they provide services beyond abortion.

Just weeks ago, after the clinic’s opening Feb. 5, local organizations like Love Lives Here in the Flathead Valley and Big Sky Rising held a fundraiser for the clinic.

"We are an inclusive community, and we like to support people of all views," said Kuffle.

The clinic invested in security to avoid another violent attack.

"Patient safety and staff safety is first and foremost, and we have taken measures to have a very safe environment," said Weems.

However, Dickerson says volunteers with the 40 Days for Life campaign have all signed a statement of peace.

"We are not out there shouting at people, we are not disturbing people, we are out there praying for those inside,” she said.

Whitefish Assistant Police Chief Bridger Kelch said they're aware of the situation and have spoken to both sides.

So far he says the only incident reported was a car that pretended to swerve into the 40 Days for Life demonstrators a day after they launched their campaign.

Kelch says they’ll be patrolling the area more frequently.

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