(Photo: REUTERS/Lee Celano)
A live webcast put on by the Family Research Council on Wednesday brought some prolific pro-lifers together to show that Pregnancy Resource Centers aren't just in the business of saving babies, they are in the business of helping mothers too.
"Many abortion advocates publicly claim that pro-lifers are myopic, that we see no further than saving the baby in the womb, doing nothing for the mother and the family once the child is born. Well, nothing could be further from the truth," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said during the webcast.
Perkins explained that counselors at abortion clinics, like Planned Parenthood, have a financial conflict of interest when they sit down with a pregnant woman, because their organizations make money when they perform abortions.
At Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRC), on the other hand, pregnant women can get the physical and spiritual assistance they need without using taxpayer dollars and without having to worry about that conflict of interest. In fact, Perkins said, these resource centers annually provide over $100 million in goods and services to women and families in need, and none of it is done at the taxpayer's expense.
"But most importantly, women find a friend, a compassionate team of people that provide compassionate support during a time of crisis," said Perkins.
Many of these resource centers provide support in the form of free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, baby clothes, food, counseling, parenting classes, post-abortion counseling and more – and they don't make any money off of the people they serve.
Peggy Hartshorn is the president of Heartbeat International, an organization founded in 1971 to help fight the growing support of legalized abortion by helping pregnant women. During the webcast Hartshorn shared how her organization goes beyond the physical needs to address the emotional and spiritual needs of women as well.
"One of the things we teach them is what we call 'God's plan for our sexuality,'" said Hartshorn. "Sexual intimacy, marriage between a man and a woman, unconditional love, selfless love, God, and marriage and children all go together, and when you separate those you've got much of the misery and suffering that we are experiencing in our culture today."
Karen Snuffer, executive director of Care Net Pregnancy Resource Centers, says her organization helps pregnant women who are considering abortions to understand all of their options before they make a decision. They first examine adoption and parenting as options, and are sure to also explain the procedures and risks associated with abortion.
Serenity, a woman who was once a Care Net client, explained just how overwhelming an unexpected pregnancy can be. The man whose child she eventually bore wanted her to get an abortion immediately. She refused and moved away, but she still didn't know how to raise a child.
"I've come to so many counseling and prayer sessions because I was on the brink of suicide from not feeling prepared or worthy enough to raise a baby by myself," she said. She also said Care Net taught her how to care for her baby, and also showed her that she is forgiven by a loving God.
One important service offered by many Pregnancy Resource Centers is free ultrasound exams. When the women see a sonogram image of their baby for the first time, it can have a major impact.
"Many times it's surprise," said Snuffer. "They aren't aware that this is a life, they think it's a blob of tissue, a product of conception, and it really has a huge impact on them when they see that heartbeat."
The heartbeat of an unborn child can become visible as early as four and a half weeks into a pregnancy. Tom Glessner, founder and president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, says 90 percent of women choose to keep their child after seeing pictures of their unborn child.
While abortion is an issue being discussed across the U.S., there are some people groups in which the practice is more prevalent than in others. Bishop Harry Jackson, a Washington D.C.-area pastor and president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, says there is a "culture of death" among African-Americans, on whom 40 percent of America's total abortions are performed each year.
Jackson says the breakdown of the family unit and the view that children are an inconvenience have contributed to the over 1,000 abortions that are performed every day on black women.
Legal experts, including Matt Bowman of the Alliance Defense Fund, said during the webcast that some pro-abortion supporters have tried to either shut down Pregnancy Resource Centers or force them to put disclaimers in their waiting rooms and on their advertisements that suggest they are not true medical service centers.
Bowman said it is ironic that some pro-choice advocates would try to remove a woman's choice of going to a PRC, but noted that the courts and state legislators have seen things in favor of these centers thus far. The "huge brick wall" that pro-choice advocates keep running into in these cases is the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, he said.
Each year, 1.5 million people are helped by Pregnancy Resource Centers, and nine out of every 10 PRC workers are volunteers, said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. When asked why being a feminist in today's culture also means being pro-abortion, Monahan explained that it has to do with a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a woman.
"The dignity of woman is so misunderstood by hardcore feminists in our culture," said Monahan. "A woman and a man are intrinsically different, but equal in dignity, and a woman's capacity to be a mother it's very inherent to who she is as a person. So this idea that abortion would be good for women ... it's antithetical to what it means to be a woman."