DENNIS — In early August, Laurie Veninger was taking part in an anti-Trump rally in Orleans when she and other activists noticed a van marked “Your Options Medical” circling the nearby rotary.
The side of the vehicle depicted the face of a woman in pink hues next to white lettering offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. At first, those at the rally assumed the mobile unit was offering access to reproductive health care.
But it turns out that Your Options Medical is a “crisis pregnancy center,” a faith-based antiabortion nonprofit with offices in Brookline, Fall River, and Revere. Such centers typically offer testing, counseling, and baby supplies to encourage people to continue their pregnancies.
“Their tactic is deceptive,” said Veninger, who lives in Truro and is a member of the Indivisible Mass Coalition, a group of activists working to improve democracy. “They put up this front of trying to be helpful, nonjudgmental, loving, and caring. And really, they’re trapping people.”
Teresa Larkin, executive director of Your Options Medical, said the group believes it is important to support women in the area who are facing unplanned pregnancies.
“This is a local Cape-driven recognition that there are services that women need on the Cape that have not been met,” Larkin said.
For many on Cape Cod, the presence of the van signaled the start of a worrisome effort to undermine access to abortion services just months after a clinic, Health Imperatives, began offering medication abortions in Hyannis, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. It is the first time since 2008 that women on the Cape and Islands have had a physical location to access abortion pills. Surgical abortions are not available on the Cape.
The clinics, said Julia Kehoe, the CEO of Health Imperatives, fill an essential gap in reproductive health care.
“What we see on the Cape and Islands are a lot of people whose medical needs aren’t being met and who, because of the growing wealth gap, are having a more and more difficult time meeting their basic needs,” Kehoe said. “Of course, that leads to health inequities and disparities.”
The last clinic in the area closed 15 years ago after a client died during a procedure. Since then, women have had to travel over an hour to Providence, Attleboro, or Boston to get an abortion.
Your Options Medical is currently training nurses and advocates to run its unit and was planning to start offering services this month, Larkin said.
The organization also has plans beyond the mobile clinic. It has partnered with a grassroots Christian organization, the Cape Cod Pro-Life Alliance, and hopes to open a permanent clinic in Hyannis.
Larkin said that the center used to have a location in Hyannis, but that it closed about six years ago. The funding and support from the Cape Cod Pro-Life Alliance is why it has returned, Larkin said.
Alliance cofounders Joe Meeks and Ellen D’Ovidio declined to comment.
In an online article this summer by the antiabortion publication Life Site News, Meeks described the alliance as “an outspoken advocate for the preborn.” He vowed that the organization would “provide women experiencing unplanned pregnancies the support needed to choose life for their babies and raise their children.”
According to a pamphlet from the mobile unit in August, the alliance has members from 17 churches and organizations. As of July, it reported having 100 members.
Crisis pregnancy centers were thrust into the spotlight after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, attracting protests, government scrutiny of the centers, and even vandalism in Worcester and Easthampton. Last year, when she was attorney general, Governor Maura Healey warned patients about the limited and potentially misleading nature of the services provided by the centers. The advisory said most crisis pregnancy centers are not medically licensed facilities and are typically not staffed by licensed physicians.
Mobile units of crisis pregnancy centers are becoming more common, said Carrie Baker, a lawyer and Smith College professor who teaches classes on reproductive justice. They can set themselves up wherever it is most convenient, she said, whether it’s the parking lot across the street from an abortion clinic or in a high-visibility location.
The mobile units are “a way of getting out into the community and trying to engage with people on the ground,” Baker said. “Abortion clinics don’t function like that — usually.’'
State Senator Julian Cyr said he saw the Your Options van over the summer in Provincetown.
“We’re going to remain vigilant on this issue,” Cyr said. “Particularly to see if they have a location or are providing services.”
Often crisis pregnancy centers exist only to counsel against abortion rather than offer medically healthy choices, said state Senator Susan Moran. There is a need for more comprehensive health care services for women on the Cape, including access to surgical abortions, she said.
“It’s really as a population being treated as a sort of a second class, or a population that’s not worthy of having complete and total health care benefits here,” said Moran, a Falmouth Democrat.
Activists who oppose abortion are taking part in a 40 Days For Life vigil outside the Hyannis clinic beginning Sept. 27. The daily vigil will focus on ending the “injustice” of abortion, according to the movement’s website.
In response, the Indivisible Mass Coalition is planning 40 Days of Real Help by collecting goods for Health Imperatives and for women in need, Veninger said.
Motivating women to fight for their rights, even in a liberal-leaning state like Massachusetts, has proved difficult for Veninger, an English professor at Cape Cod Community College.
“Activists and feminists and progressive women need to start bitching and moaning,” she said. “I’m sorry, they’ve got to make this point. We can’t keep rolling over, just shaking our heads.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Julia Kehoe, CEO of Health Imperatives. The Globe regrets the error.