Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
Astrid Bennett Gutierrez is executive director of Los Angeles Pregnancy Services (LAPS, www.SaveLABabies.com), a non-profit pregnancy resource center directly involved in assisting pregnant women facing difficult situations so that they choose life for their babies. She began as a volunteer and founding board member in 2000; she has been executive director for the past 11 years.
She also began The VIDA Initiative (http://www.thevidainitiative.com/) to bridge the gap between the inherently pro-life Latino community and the dynamic pro-life movement in the U.S. VIDA forms and activates new leaders.
She also serves as co-host of the EWTN Spanish channel’s Ellas lo Dicen (“According to her,” see https://www.ewtn.com/espanol/series/shows/ellas_lo_dicen.asp) where the hosts discuss issues related to women, especially pro-life and pro-family topics. And, she plans to earn a Master’s in Theology with Bioethics at Holy Apostles College and Seminary through their online program.
She recently spoke about her “front lines” work saving babies from abortion.
What are some of the services LAPS provides?
We provide counseling, access to free ultrasounds and pre-natal care with pro-life physicians, financial assistance and maternity and baby items in one of Los Angeles’ most impoverished neighborhoods … and the most targeted by the abortion industry.
Who are your clients?
Our clients are largely Hispanic and low-income women, many of whom are immigrants.
What impact has LAPS had since its founding 17 years ago?
With the grace of God, almost 7,000 unborn children have been saved from abortion at the main LAPS location and our satellite center in Huntington Park, another mostly Hispanic area targeted by the abortion industry. We opened the Huntington Park center in 2012.
As I recall, there are many abortion clinics in the area surrounding LAPS.
Los Angeles County has over 40 abortion businesses. Sadly, the largest concentration of abortion businesses, almost a quarter of them, are in the neighborhood that LAPS serves.
Officials in the state and local government are very friendly to the abortion industry. Are there any laws that have been enacted or that could potentially be enacted that would thwart what you’re trying to do?
AB 775 was passed in 2015 to force pro-life clinics to disseminate pro-abortion messages. Pregnancy centers like LAPS must post signs designed to dissuade pregnant women from seeking help at our locations. Because California’s government funds free abortions through the MediCal program, the work of LAPS becomes that much more important to give low-income women hope, education and material support.
What connection do you have to the Catholic Church?
Catholic parishes and parishioners have been faithful supporters of LAPS through financial donations and also the donation of baby items. Our need greatly exceeds our income. We see over a thousand new cases per year and provide counseling, access to free ultrasounds, and emergency funds for rent and pre-natal medications not covered by medical. It is all very expensive, and it is a gargantuan task to raise these funds. But, saving lives and providing hope to families is worth it.
How are you funded? Are you in need of additional financial support?
We are funded through private donations by individuals and a couple of private grants, but our need is very great at the moment. I believe we have one of the best models for saving lives by providing thorough support through counseling, financial assistance and post-natal support while collaborating with pro-life physicians that can address a full range of medical issues women in crisis pregnancies face. We cover the cost of it all with the donations in order to remove any barrier for the mom to choose life. Last year, we confirmed that 391 pregnant moms chose life for their children and have many photographs of these precious children and letters of gratitude from the mothers. Donations to LAPS are tax-deductible. You can give safely and conveniently online at www.SaveLABabies.com.
Anything else you’d like to share about LAPS?
LAPS serves in the single neighborhood with the most abortion centers in the country as verified by Heartbeat International. Abortion businesses in our neighborhood use aggressive tactics, such as luring pregnant women from the streets with flyers and promises of free gifts in order to sell them an abortion. Our mission is huge and our need is great. I welcome anyone who wants to stop by and take a look at what we do and the neighborhood where we serve. They can contact me at email@example.com or 213-382-5433.