Pro-Life Pioneer: Kathleen Eaton Bravo’s 21st-Century Revolution

A post-abortive mother with a track record in business believes the movement to save the unborn can turn the tide on abortion with her Obria Foundation’s alternative to Planned Parenthood.

Kathleen Eaton Bravo, founder of Obria Medical Clinics.
Kathleen Eaton Bravo, founder of Obria Medical Clinics. (photo: The Obria Foundation)

WASHINGTON — What would it take to create a revolution in the pro-life movement that could break the cycle of abortion and poverty and finally put Planned Parenthood out of business? Kathleen Eaton Bravo believes she has the answer: a savvy new pro-life medical model, Obria Medical Clinics, which is fully equipped to compete in the 21st century.

“We’ve been reactive in the pro-life movement for 40 years,” Bravo told the Register. “Let’s be proactive and go to the root cause of the problem.”

Bravo is a post-abortive mother and businesswoman with experience in the for-profit sector. And she has a plan to transform pregnancy-resource centers nationwide into life-affirming medical clinics with a brand women will trust.

The vision has received the endorsement of Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which conferred her organization’s Distinguished Leader Award on Bravo this year, recognizing her as an “unstoppable and truly fearless” pro-life leader.

“She’s one of the people who sees the vision, knows how to get there and has the experience to prove that it is doable,” Dannenfelser said. “It’s evidence of the things that we [in the pro-life movement] hope for.”

Bravo says the evidence is clear and convincing that the current pregnancy-resource model is serving women with real needs for diapers, formula and pregnancy support — needs that have to be met — but that model doesn’t reach many of the abortion-minded women and families heading into Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities.

So Bravo decided in 2006 to take her for-profit business experience and start transforming the Birth Choice pregnancy-resource centers she started in California more than 30 years ago into full-fledged medical clinics under a new business model to serve both women and men — “because it takes two to get pregnant.”


Comprehensive Medical Care

Since early 2015, the clinics operate under a new name, Obria Medical Clinics, offering pregnancy tests, STD treatment, ultrasounds, prenatal care, cancer screening, natural family planning instruction and comprehensive programs both before and continuing five years after birth, in order to help men and women get their lives on the track to success.

“The success cases that graduate: they’re going to nursing school; they’re married; they’re off drugs; they’re not hooking up or cohabitating,” Bravo said. “In other words, if you support them through a model and do a continuum of care, we can really change lives.”

Bravo says that before 2006 her pregnancy-resource centers were seeing 430-500 women per year; perhaps less than 20% were actually abortion-minded, meaning they came in with the idea of abortion in mind, whereas another 10% were vulnerable and didn’t know if they wanted to take the abortion route. The remaining 70% were looking for maternity clothes, formula and diapers — “I gave away a lot of diapers.”

By 2009, three years into the medical model, the verdict was inescapable: Her clinics saw 9,000 patients a year on average, and they were saving lives on a never-before-seen scale.

“We went from saving four babies a year to almost 1,000 a year by 2014,” she said.

Planned Parenthood finally took notice when their abortion numbers began to drop and recognized that Bravo was competing with their business model on pro-life principles — and making an impact.

“As I started doing research and talking to the young people coming into our clinics, they said, ‘I went to Planned Parenthood. I’m just a number. But I come over here, and you sit down with me and don’t have an agenda. I’m telling all my friends about you,’” Bravo said. “And before we knew it, we were seeing over 13,000 patients in those three little clinics.”


A Competitive Advantage

The Obria Medical Clinics model also provides pro-life advantages that Planned Parenthood cannot match. For one thing, Bravo points out, no patient is turned away from Obria for a lack of funds, while Planned Parenthood — which charges fees for its services admitted to turning away people seeking preventative care when the reimbursement rates fell too low.

In fact, Bravo says Planned Parenthood has sent girls to her Obria Medical Clinics for the clinic’s free ultrasound program.

“We love when they send us the girls who are pregnant,” she said. “Because, you know what? Eighty-five percent of our girls, once they go through our process of counseling and support — once they see the ultrasound [from the pro-life perspective] and hear the baby’s heartbeat — they go through with the pregnancy.”

But Planned Parenthood is diving headlong into a digital world to meet girls and women in an approach that leaves brick-and-mortar pregnancy-resource centers behind.  

“This is where abortion starts,” she warned, holding up a smartphone. She explains that young women in trouble go online with their phones to search for “clinic” — and because pregnancy centers cannot market the keyword clinic — they become almost invisible.

But Bravo’s Obria (clinics) will be visible. And what’s more, Bravo says that wherever Planned Parenthood goes online, Obria can keep pace. For example, Planned Parenthood is shifting to the far more profitable telemedicine model, where the abortion happens in the bedroom, with the RU-486 pill. To counter this, the Obria Foundation is developing its own telemedicine model and performing RU-486 reversal procedures.

“We did three reversals in the last week and a half,” she said, “and we saved those babies. And do you know where they found us for that? Online.”


Proven Return on Investment

The Obria Foundation is raising funds to take its model national, and Bravo says it has the numbers to prove that it is a guaranteed investment in saving lives. The capital campaign for the Obria Foundation plans to treat 780,000 young people in the foundation’s clinics over the next five years.

“It’s very simple: Spend $25 million, save 337,000 lives,” said Joe Burke, vice president of marketing and philanthropy and a former marketing executive with experience driving campaigns in the for-profit sector.

According to Burke’s figures, that’s a pro-life investment of under $75 to save one life: a far smaller sum than the average $451 paid for a first trimester abortion according to the Guttmacher Institute.

He added that Obria’s formula is based on “guaranteed saves” at existing Obria facilities, not estimates.

“This is how we identify a saved life: from a woman who is abortion-vulnerable — meaning she is less than 50% sure she wants to go through with it — to carrying. That’s what we consider a life saved.”

So when it comes to the 850 saved lives from 2014, he explained, “because we follow the patient through the pregnancy we know this baby will be born and will have a name: That’s a save.”


Positive Changes

The pro-life movement, Bravo says, will see drastic positive change “if we unite, bring our best practices to the forefront in medical care and create a model under a national brand — an excellent, accredited, licensed medical model that services the continuing care of the patients.” 

Obria is built on a franchise model, similar to Planned Parenthood or McDonald’s. A pregnancy-resource center that signs an agreement to operate as an Obria affiliated clinic gets to keep its own donors, 501(c)3 nonprofit status, board and autonomy.

“But the sign on the clinic shows they do business as an Obria Medical Clinic,” Bravo said.

In exchange, Obria helps the clinics transform into fully staffed and professional medical operations, bringing in new donors and best practices in business and medicine — and culminating in Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care accreditation, which “will stamp that you are the best and most excellent level of medical-care provider for community clinics in the country.”

The affiliate agreement stipulates no contraception or abortion referral or things of that nature will be allowed.

The clinics also have the benefit of the Obria brand and patient marketing, so that when women research on their smartphones — whether they are from Ohio, California or New York City — they will be able to recognize the clinic “as a safe place young people can go to for care.”

“People are thirsting for the pro-life movement to come together and raise up an effective medical model,” Bravo said.


‘Beacon of Hope’

Dannenfelser agrees, saying the pro-life movement needs “a beacon of hope like Obria.”

“There are really two wings of the pro-life movement,” Dannenfelser said — those who work in the political sphere for pro-life laws and policies and the equally indispensable people like Bravo, who are working to transform the culture from the ground up. “Those two things are urgently required to be successful.”

“If we really believe that each of these children is there for a purpose, it’s indispensable that these women and children get our help,” Dannenfelser said. “Otherwise, the culture of death is going to continue to be the go-to place, instead of places like Obria.”

Peter Jesserer Smith is the Register’s Washington correspondent.