Only clinic to offer abortions in the Flathead may not reopen
The only medical office offering abortions in the Flathead Valley may not reopen after extensive vandalism shut its doors earlier this month. The man arrested for the break in is the son of a founder of a local pro-life organization.
All Families Health Care offers primary care by Physicians Assistant Susan Cahill.
“I take care of children, and geriatrics as well, men – they don’t come in as much, and women, they come in more often either because of their reproductive years, menopause, etcetera,” Cahill said.
All Families is also the only practice offering abortion services in the area. Cahill said she was in school from 1974 to 1976, just after Roe vs. Wade, and learning how to perform abortions was part of her coursework.
“It totally made sense to me that, of course, when you do a family practice, and you’re taking care of the reproductive aged patient, and families, there’ll be times when families are happy and ecstatic about being pregnant, and other times when that is not something they can do at this time,” Cahill said.
Cahill originally came to the area to work with Dr. James Armstrong who had also worked in New York.
“He remembered seeing women die every day in the hospital from illegal abortions, and he vowed, if they ever became legal, he would do it as part of his family practice,” Cahill said.
Cahill has been practicing in the Flathead for about 38 years.
All families had just recently moved to a new location on 1st Avenue East in Kalispell.
Cahill said she had only been open a handful of weeks before her receptionist came in on March 4th to find the office all smashed up.
“I wake up at night still, thinking about this, so, it’s hard to talk about, but… Everything that this person could possibly destroy, he destroyed. Everything.”
The office has been closed since.
“Tubes were broken, there was iodine spilled over everything, there was fire extinguisher dust everywhere. I can still taste it because I’m still dealing with cleaning up charts and things. The charts were thrown all over the place, everything was slashed; my two exam tables had slash marks in them. He slashed my new counters, every glass surface was broken, My personal pictures were cut, pictures of my family, faces,” Cahill said.
24-year-old Zachary Klundt was arrested and charged with breaking into All Families. Klundt is the son of a founding member of the Hope Pregnancy Ministries of Kalispell. Executive Director Michelle Reimer said his mother resigned as a board member upon learning of her sons’ arrest.
Reimer said the break in goes against the Christian foundation of the ministry.
“I have spent many hours, I think, imagining myself in her shoes, and I can imagine how hurtful that was, and if I could reach out to Susan, I would tell her that, that it’s unacceptable. It’s not how anybody, any human should act to oppose anything,” Reimer said.
Reimer said both organizations are showing care and concern for women, they just come from polar opposite viewpoints.
“I don’t think we have to be enemies,” Reimer said, “What I want you to know about Hope Pregnancy Ministries is that we care about people, and we care about people because we are people who were first loved by God, and we are, we’re commanded to love others.”
Hope Pregnancy Ministries has two branches; the Pregnancy Resource Center, and the Clear Choice Clinic and offers free ultrasounds, STD testing, counseling and parenting classes. It identifies itself as a pro-life organization.
The Montana Human Rights Network got involved with Cahill’s situation, because of the break in, and also because Reimer and her husband bought the building where Cahill had been working.
Cahill said she was given an opportunity to buy it, but at 64, she was planning to retire in a couple years and didn’t want to take on the maintenance issues.
Reimer said she was told Cahill intended to retire when the building sold.
“So it made sense that that was a way to kind of put our money where our mouth is and say, I’ve given my life to this cause, and believe strongly that abortion is wrong, and though it may be legal, I don’t believe that it’s moral, and so with the belief that she was planning to retire when the building sold, we purchased it,” Reimer said.
The building is currently for lease.
Cahill said she had intended to ease out of her business, connecting her patients with new providers. Now, she’s not sure if she will reopen.
“It also makes me feel really bad for the people I’ve taken care of all these years. But, I’m also very, very tired of fighting this all the time, and I feel like I… I can’t. Doctors who provide abortion services can’t continue to take all of the risk,” Cahill said.
Cahill’s office was one of several clinics firebombed in the early 1990’s by Richard T. Andrews. However, she said it’s different this time.
“To have this so personal in my own community makes it much harder, and makes me… scared to live here.”
The Montana Human Rights Network set up an online donation site to help Cahill with cleanup costs, and people donated about double what she had asked for within the first week.
“I’ve had an amazing community response and patient response and money and cards from people I don’t even know, and jewelry that’s made for me, and gift certificates. So, that really has overshadowed the violence and destruction absolutely. It’s been wonderful, and it’s really helped me a lot,” Cahill said.
All Families remains closed with Cahill and her receptionist manning the phones and making referrals to other care providers from a temporary location.
For abortion services, Missoula is now the closest option.