Jesse Mermel clinic

Jesse Mermell stands outside Attleboro Women’s Health Center and Abundant Hope Pregnancy Resource Center on Emory Street.

ATTLEBORO — Jesse Mermell, one of seven Democrat candidates vying to fill the 4th Congressional District seat being vacated by Joseph Kennedy III, stopped in the city Monday to announce her agenda on reproductive rights.

Mermell appeared outside Attleboro Women’s Health Center on Emory Street, which houses Abundant Hope Pregnancy Resource Center, a pro-life non-profit agency run by a Christian group. It sparked a brief and mild confrontation with the center’s director, Darlene Howard.

Howard, who came out to see what was going on when Mermell posed for a photo in front of her facility, invited Mermell in for a tour.

Mermell, in turn, requested Howard’s business card to set up a future conversation.

The invitation to tour was not accepted and Howard didn’t have a card with her and that’s where it ended.

Mermell, who said reproductive rights are “under serious threat” throughout the nation, characterized the health center and Abundant Hope as a “crisis pregnancy center.” She argued it and others like it try to “confuse” women about their options when they become pregnant and specifically steer them away from abortions.

“Crisis pregnancy centers are fake health centers whose aim is to prevent people considering abortion care from receiving that care,” she said in prepared press release. “They peddle lies and misinformation about abortion care.”

Mermell said if elected to represent the 4th District, where three such centers exist, one each in Attleboro, Taunton and Fall River, it would be her goal to deny federal funding for those operations and others throughout the nation.

“The battle for reproductive health is being fought right here in our own back yards,” she said during an interview outside the health center.

The Emory Street site is part of a medical complex where Four Women Health Services, an abortion clinic, is located.

Mermell, a Brookline resident and the former vice president of external affairs at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, issued a press release outlining other goals of her reproductive rights agenda. It includes the codification of Roe v. Wade into federal law, repeal of the Hyde amendment, the full funding of Title X, the funding of comprehensive sex education programs and putting an end to “the global gag rule.”

Meanwhile, Howard said Attleboro Women’s Health Center is funded solely with donations, that it does not receive state or federal dollars.

She described Attleboro Women’s Health Center as the “medical division of Abundant Hope Pregnancy Resource Center.”

“Abundant Hope has been in existence since 2009 and our mission is to provide life-affirming support for women with an unplanned pregnancy,” Howard said. “Attleboro Women’s Health Center is considered by our patients to be a very valuable medical service provider in the community. We provide free pregnancy testing, limited ultrasound imaging and STD testing, all free of charge.”

George W. Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

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