By Cassy Fiano
Imagine you’re a young girl facing an unplanned pregnancy. You’re scared, confused, and you feel alone. You’re getting pressure — from your parents, your boyfriend, your friends, your teachers — to have an abortion. Maybe you’re even being threatened or being coerced into it. Yet deep down, you feel it isn’t right. You want to keep your baby. What do you do? Where do you go for help?
This is a scenario that countless women face every single day, and here to help them is StandUpGirl.com. StandUpGirl is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing pregnant women with alternatives to abortion. StandUpGirl.com has been growing rapidly since its inception in 2000, with over 26 million visitors total and over 400,000 visitors per month.
Volunteers, called StandUpGirls, help man the site by moderating chat rooms and forums, answering e-mails, and help give women resources besides abortion. They also refer girls to OptionLine.org, a 24/7 support line to connect pregnant women with pro-life pregnancy resource centers. Women can also text PREGNANT to 313131 and receive 24 hour support. They currently reach over 400 women a month through their text services alone.
I spoke with StandUpGirl Executive Director Dawn Marie Perez to find out more about this one-of-a-kind organization.
Cassy Fiano: How did StandUpGirl get started?
Dawn Marie Perez: A small group of pro-life people got together with Oregon Right to Life in 2000 and wanted to design a way to reach Generation Y with life-affirming resources. The goal was to reach out to women who were/are abortion minded and help them choose life for their child and themselves.
CF: What resources does StandUpGirl offer women facing an unplanned pregnancy?
DMP: We are a direct link to the Pregnancy Resource Centers that are affiliated with Heartbeat International, CareNet and BirthRight International. When a young women comes to the site seeking help, we get her connected with a life-affirming pregnancy center in her neighborhood. We also have beautiful fetal development images, 3D ultrasound pictures, month-by-month growth charts, pregnancy calendars, and much more. Along with our social media sites, we have 24 hour text counseling, blogs, chat rooms, forums and articles that are monitored and responded to on a daily basis.
CF: What options are out there for women facing unplanned pregnancies that they often don’t know about?
DMP: Many young women are led to believe that Planned Parenthood is there to “help” them, and they think this is their only resource. There are thousands of life-affirming pregnancy centers throughout the world that offer free and confidential services to women right in their own home towns. StandUpGirl.com also offers thousands of stories and articles from women that have been in the same situation, providing hope and courage.
CF: What have you found is most likely to change the minds of abortion-minded women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy?
DMP: We have found that most women who “think” that they want to have an abortion are leaning that way because of pressure from family, friends and what they think society is saying is the “norm.” When we provide them with stories from other women who have changed their minds, and give them the emotional support they need to do what is in their hearts, most choose life! We find that abortion-minded women feel alone, and that their unborn child means the loss of a boyfriend or family. So they feel they have no other options. It is such a sad cycle of emotions that they go through.
CF: How would you respond to the attacks on pregnancy resource centers from the pro-abortion lobby?
DMP: Most of the claims against Pregnancy Centers are pure lies, and the media taking situations out of context. It is like taking a verse from the Bible, and applying just one part of a three passage verse to meet the needs of your explanation. It’s just not right. Pregnancy centers have strict health guidelines they follow, along with providing ALL of the options in an unplanned pregnancy. Their services are free and confidential because they are supported by their community. The pregnancy centers that we work with have policies and procedures that are monitored and regulated by organizations like Heartbeat International and Optionline.org to ensure the clients safety and best interest are always at the heart of their work!
CF: What do you think causes women to feel like they have to have an abortion?
DMP: The women that come to StandUpGirl with thoughts of abortion tell us stories like “my boyfriend said he would leave me if I didn’t have abortion,” “My parents said if I ever got pregnant they would kick me out of their house and I have nowhere to go,” “my parents will disown me and my friends at school will talk behind my back and call me names,” “I have plans and goals for myself and the baby will ruin everything,” “I will never finish school with a baby”. They are under overwhelming pressure to conform to what appears to be the easiest traveled road. They are being told that a baby is an inconvenience, and they will never be able to provide the best for this child in their current circumstances. The majority of our visitors say they know in their hearts that having an abortion is wrong, but they feel they have no other choice. We are working to give them other choices!
CF: How does having a community of women help in these types of situations?
DMP: Many teens and young adults rely on their peers for advice and mentorship. As a community of women that have “been” there, we offer that same peer relationship in an anonymous environment where girls in need can feel free to be honest and ask whatever questions they may have. We provide helping resources and a listening ear for their worries. We offer love and support, and encourage the girls to seek these types of relationships in their lives, relationships where they can grow emotionally and physically to become the mothers they are meant to be.
Editor’s note. Cassy Fiano is a blogger who lives with her husband, a United States Marine. They have a toddler named Ben, a second son named Wyatt, who has Down syndrome, and a little girl named Ivy. This appeared at liveactionnews.org.