Thirty-seven years ago, abortion became a virtually unlimited constitutional right by judicial fiat. This act of “raw judicial power,” in the words of Justice Byron White, has given the United States the highest abortion rate in the Western world, and today the U.S. abortion industry “serves” roughly 1.2 million women per year, if performing an abortion could be said to be an act of service.
Despite this staggering figure, abortions continue to decline in America, and this good news very likely has something to do with the remarkable growth of pregnancy-resource centers, formerly known as crisis-pregnancy centers, which number over 2,300 and which serve, truly serve, over a million women each year.
Pregnancy-resource centers meet the needs of women, youth and families by providing pregnancy assistance, abstinence counseling and education, community-outreach programs and referrals, and assistance in accessing public health services. Privately funded and volunteer-driven, pregnancy-resource centers are a dramatic example of the power of citizen action to change lives and improve communities.
A new report from the Family Research Council traces the history and the tremendous achievements and contributions of the pregnancy-resource center movement, which has supported women and children for more than four decades. Through statistical summaries, case studies and client stories, “A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life” presents the extraordinary social-service contributions made by the nation’s pregnancy-resource centers.
Free pregnancy tests were the original service provided by centers, but during the past 15 years, as centers have grown in size and impact, they have added medical services like sexually transmitted infection and disease testing and treatment, physical exams and ultrasound to confirm pregnancy, and prenatal education and care. Today they open locations tailored to specific communities and populations and have added parenting classes, abstinence education, abortion-recovery programs and fatherhood initiatives.
“A Passion to Serve” presents the impact of this vital movement through an examination of the development of the three major pregnancy-resource network groups: Care Net, Heartbeat International, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.
Pregnancy-care centers provide a caring, compassionate and non-judgmental approach, in which respect and confidentially are paramount. Theirs is a holistic approach, supporting not only the woman’s physical needs but also her psychological and social needs. And, together, they assist approximately 5,500 people every day — people like a young woman in Pennsylvania named Megan.
When Megan found out she was pregnant, she was scared, confused, and believed everything she had been told: that an abortion was the only way to “save” her life as she knew it.
Megan made an appointment for a RU-486 medical abortion; the abortion clinic staff had made it sound so simple, like taking a Tylenol for a headache. But she couldn’t shake the nagging thoughts in the back of her mind, those unsettled feelings that she thought would disappear once she made the appointment. As the date for the abortion grew closer, her anxiety worsened, and she wished she could stall the abortion appointment until she felt completely confident that she was making the right decision.
One day, as she was riding the bus, she saw a sign that gave her a sense of comfort she hadn’t felt in weeks. It read: “Considering Abortion? Pregnancy-Care Centers: Caring, Confidential, Trusted.” She decided to call the number, and found that the woman on the other end of the line listened and didn’t judge.
The visit to the pregnancy-care center changed her life. In her words, “For the first time, I saw my situation for what it really was — a blessing, a miracle of life. I saw my baby on the ultrasound as a real person.” Megan felt a renewed sense of purpose and confidence in her capacity to be a mother.
“The center wasn’t about fixing a ‘problem’ or telling me what to do — it was about the undeniable, unselfish celebration of life ... and not just my baby’s life, but mine, as well. It was about empowerment, guidance and support.”
Megan was given something at the pregnancy-care center that she would never have been given at an abortion clinic: love, truth and help. Her baby was given a chance at life.
As we mark another anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we can take heart and great pride in the pregnancy-center movement and the thousands of people reaching out in love to mothers in need and welcoming their children into the world.
Tony Perkins is a former elected official from Louisiana and now serves as president of the Family Research Council, a pro-family advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. Attorney Cathy Ruse is a former spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is FRC’s senior fellow for legal studies.