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Crisis pregnancy center accused of failing to care for Worcester woman who was later forced to have emergency abortion

Clearway Clinic is being sued after it allegedly gave a Worcester woman an incorrect diagnosis that forced her to have an emergency abortion weeks later.

A book called “From Conception to Birth” was seen inside the counseling room at a Massachusetts crisis pregnancy center.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

A Worcester woman is suing crisis pregnancy center Clearway Clinic for allegedly tricking her into thinking she was getting proper medical care when workers failed to tell her she had an ectopic pregnancy, forcing her to have an emergency abortion weeks later.

In a complaint filed Thursday, Clearway is accused of unfair and deceptive business practices in violation of state law, and specifically of luring in patients seeking prenatal care with “deceptive advertising” that does not “make clear that its true goal is to dissuade women from terminating their pregnancies, rather than providing them with the range of medically appropriate options.”


The complaint, which refers to the woman as Jane Doe to protect her privacy, also seeks relief for any other women who say they have been lured into Clearway Clinic under the pretense of receiving prenatal care.

“This is a very scary time after the fall of Roe [v. Wade], and an ongoing issue is these crisis pregnancy centers that have steered women away from exercising their options here in Massachusetts where abortion is constitutionally protected,” the woman’s attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan, said in an interview Thursday. “It is critical we use the law to make sure that women are protected, that their rights are protected, and that they are not misled into giving up those rights.”

Officials with Clearway Clinic did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an interview with the Globe last year, the clinic’s former executive director, Kelly Wilcox, who stepped down from her post in late 2022, said the clinic’s goal isn’t to “change people’s minds.”

“We’re not even here to change people’s minds,” she said in September. “We’re here to give them really good quality informed consent.”

In October, the woman booked a same-day appointment at the Clearway Clinic in Worcester for an ultrasound because she thought she might be pregnant, according to her attorneys. Despite being given paperwork at the end of her visit indicating that she had been treated by a Dr. Erin Kate Dooley, the woman was instead allegedly seen by a nurse who was not licensed to diagnose viable pregnancies, according to the complaint.


Dooley could not be reached for comment.

The complaint alleges that, after conducting a limited number of ultrasounds, the nurse nevertheless diagnosed the pregnancy as viable and in utero, and sent the woman home believing she was carrying a completely healthy baby.

One month later, her attorneys said, the woman suddenly began to feel a sharp and shooting pain in her side. She became so faint that her husband had to call 911, and she was rushed to the emergency room at UMass Memorial Medical Center. There, doctors quickly diagnosed her with an ectopic pregnancy — in which a fetus grows outside the uterus — which had ruptured and caused “massive internal bleeding,” according to the complaint.

Her attorneys said that had she been properly diagnosed in October, doctors could have used a less invasive treatment to remove the fetus. Instead, they were forced to perform emergency surgery to stop the hemorrhaging and removed one of her fallopian tubes.

“The appropriate medical action would have been an immediate termination of the pregnancy,” the complaint said. “However, unknown to Plaintiff, this is not an action, or even a referral, that Clearway would have undertaken.”


Rebecca Hart Holder, president of Reproductive Equity Now, said the case should serve as a warning that centers like Clearway “not only harm the health and safety of people seeking abortion, but also patients in need of basic pregnancy care.”

“When a person is seeking compassionate abortion or pregnancy care, the last thing they should have to worry about is a false health diagnosis that delays or stands in the way of life-saving treatment,” she said in a statement. “These facilities fail to offer safe or legitimate health services, putting patients at serious risk.”

Crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion clinics 3-to-1 in Massachusetts, according to Reproductive Equity Now.

Last year, then-attorney general Maura Healey issued a consumer advisory warning that crisis pregnancy centers such as Clearway Clinic often use deceptive advertising and seldom have staff who are licensed as medical doctors. A spokesperson for Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office said staff are actively monitoring the roughly three dozen centers across the state for potential violations of civil rights laws.

Since the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year, reversing abortion protections nationwide, many crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts have pushed back against state officials. In September, a coalition of faith-based centers wrote back to Healey arguing that any sanctions taken against them would be unconstitutional, and urging her to lift the advisory.

But Liss-Riordan said that, rather than preventing the centers from operating altogether, her goal is to compel the clinics “to be upfront about what they’re doing.”


“The concern here is the deception, and that is illegal under Massachusetts law,” she said. Liss-Riordan said she hopes the lawsuit serves to “put other so-called crisis pregnancy centers on notice” that they may face similar legal action for endangering woman through misleading ad campaigns.

“Clearway has caused grave harm to many women, not just Jane Doe,” she said. “And Clearway’s practices, like other so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ across Massachusetts, have been deceiving patients and depriving pregnant women of their ability to obtain standard medical care for a long time.”

Ivy Scott can be reached at Follow her @itsivyscott.