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Over the past three decades, crisis-pregnancy centers, or pregnancy resource centers, have undergone significant changes.
BY Tim DrakeRegister Senior Writer
PAUL, Minn. — Former broadcast journalist Maria Vitale used to believe what
many abortion advocates said about pregnancy-resource centers, that they are
“deceptive” and “unprofessional.”
had bought the lie that alternatives to abortion centers were ‘fake abortion
clinics,’ violating standard practices of truth in advertising,” said Vitale.
was only after working as a volunteer with Birthright that she became aware of
their real work and value. “It became apparent to me that the pro-life movement
really is a movement of love,” said Vitale.
has been 41 years since the establishment of North America’s first
pregnancy-resource center. Today, more than 2,300 centers carry out the work of
caring for abortion-minded women, men and their children. Over the past three
decades, crisis-pregnancy centers, or pregnancy-resource centers, have
undergone significant changes, affiliating with national networks, implementing
standards, and moving toward a medical model of practice that offer services
such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases and ultrasound.
my 25 years in crisis-pregnancy center work, there has been an increase in
quality and the scope of services offered,” said Pat Foley, director of the
Wakota Life Care Center in West St. Paul, Minn. “Most are offering more medical
services, which has brought a professionalism into CPCs that wasn’t there
to “A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life,” a recent pregnancy-resource center
report on the movement as a whole published by the Family Research Council,
centers assist 5,500 people in the U.S. every day and 1.9 million annually. The
average center sees between 300 and 350 people each year, but some, such as
Lakeshore Pregnancy Center in Western Michigan, see more than 5,000 clients
backbone of such work is volunteers: 29 of every 30 people engaged in
pregnancy-center work are volunteers. Affiliates of the pregnancy resource
centers networks Care Net and Heartbeat International utilize the services of
more than 40,000 volunteers annually.
One center director spoke of the
need for centers to adjust their services to meet the changing times and
Offering More Services
“We need centers that can meet the
needs of abortion-minded women,” said Chris Gustafson, director of the Lakes
Life Care Center in Forest Lake, Minn. “The majority of women are
abortion-minded. They don’t consider their pregnancy a crisis; it’s a problem.
We’re fishing for women who want to have abortions, rather than women who find
themselves in crisis.”
Originally, the primary service
offered by many pregnancy-resource centers was free pregnancy tests. While that
continues, as more centers move to a medical model, many are offering services
that weren’t available previously, such as ultrasound, abstinence education and
There has been a fivefold increase
in Care Net-affiliated centers offering STD testing since 2003.
Between 2003 and 2006, the number of
centers affiliated with Care Net that provide ultrasound has more than tripled.
Statistics show that a very high percentage of abortion-minded women who are
shown an ultrasound of their unborn child will choose life.
Through efforts by such
organizations as the Knights of Columbus and Focus on the Family’s Option
Ultrasound Project, ultrasound equipment is being made available to centers at
minimal or no cost. In addition, organizations such as National Institute of
Family and Life Advocates exist to help centers desiring to make the transition
to the medical model of service.
ago, there was tremendous diversity among pregnancy-resource centers in terms
of how they operated. Some were set up as clinics, others were mom-and-pop
centers operating out of a home.
the majority of centers have adopted “Our Commitment of Care,” an ethical code
of practice for life-affirming pregnancy-resource centers and medical clinics
that has been endorsed by a coalition of national pregnancy-resource centers.
Among the commitments they make: treating clients with kindness and compassion,
honesty, truthful advertising and proper training for staff and volunteers.
states, such as Minnesota and Pennsylvania, offer some public funding for pregnancy-resource
center services. Pennsylvania’s Real Alternatives reimburses participating
crisis pregnancy centers for their work with clients. In exchange, the centers
promise to abide by a set of standards and a scope of services.
example, Pennsylvania’s Real Alternatives ensures that the results of pregnancy
tests are conveyed to clients in a quick manner so as not to prolong the
anxiety of the client.
“So much for the abortion industry’s claim
that pregnancy-resource centers are in the coercion business,” said Vitale.
of our job is to envision centers and provide the support that they need to
reach those levels,” said Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat
International. “Affiliating with a national network can help centers to get
Tim Drake is based in
St. Joseph, Minnesota.
10 Pregnancy-Resource Center
Over the years, pregnancy-resource centers have found that
specific practices can raise the level of professionalism. Various
pregnancy-resource center directors interviewed for this story provided their
ideas for “best practices” that could be adopted by other centers. The list was
compiled by the Register.
1. Affiliate with one of the national
2. Utilize a board of directors to whom
the executive director is accountable.
3. Employ a couple of high-quality, key
4. Implement standards such as
“Commitment of Care.”
5. Transition to the medical model.
6. Location of center should be both
visible and accessible, with clear, consistent hours of operation.
7. Remain focused on the center’s
8. Have a conflict-resolution policy in
9. Meticulous record keeping.
training for counselors and volunteers.