By Gayle Irwin
In a state with a population smaller than many American cities, Wyoming’s pregnancy resource center executive directors gather twice a year for prayer, encouragement, and ideas, building up one another for the battle for human life.
“We pray for each other and we encourage each other,” said Terry Winship, executive director of True Care Women’s Resource Center in Casper.
For the past several years, she has hosted the gathering due to her community’s central location in the state.
Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, executive director of Serenity Pregnancy Center, agreed with Winship and added, “We discuss successes, challenges and opportunities. It’s important for us to know what is happening across our state and be aware of any trends.”
Distance in miles can mean feeling isolated
Her organization operates two centers, one in Cody and the other in Powell, located nearly 20 miles apart.
“We are the only PRC in Wyoming that has two medical clinics,” she said.
Although each location has a manager, Rodriguez-Williams travels back and forth between the two clinics. Distance is one of the challenges Wyoming pregnancy centers face. Not only are the centers located several hundred miles apart throughout the state, but the coverage area for many of them is extensive.
For example, Abba’s House in Riverton sees patients from Fremont County, which is more than 9,200 square miles and includes a Native American reservation and the communities of Lander, 20 miles away, and Dubois, nearly 80 miles from Riverton. Abba’s House is in the process of obtaining a mobile medical unit solely for the purpose to reach more women in the vast county.
“A lot of people in our area can’t get here,” said Leilani Schrock, executive director of Abba’s House. “The idea for a mobile unit came out of discussions we had at one of our directors’ meetings.”
These gatherings are valuable to directors who have been part of pregnancy center work for decades, like Winship, and for new directors. Schrock, who has led Abba’s House for more than seven years, recalls being a new director.
“I really could not have this without these ladies,” she said. “They are a great support. These meetings have truly guided me. There is so much knowledge and information for a new director coming in, so having these gatherings is really beneficial.”
“I’ve learned that self-care is important,” said Rodriguez-Williams, who became Serenity’s leader in 2017. “When you are a director of a PRC, you are viewed in your community as someone who has pro-life written on their forehead. You turn to God for everything. I’ve learned that spiritual warfare is real, and I’ve learned that I am not alone. I can turn to any of the ladies in our group for guidance, advice, or support. I can email or pick up the phone – the support is there.”
Impact of centers in Wyoming
Last year, the directors collaborated on an impact report. This document was created to showcase the positive work done by Wyoming’s pregnancy centers and was shared with state and federal legislators and at events, Winship said. More than 1,300 women and their partners were served by these life-affirming centers and nearly $414,000 in services and support were provided to clients.
Another important aspect of the impact report is the response received from the women served – 99 percent of them indicated on exit surveys they had a positive experience at Wyoming’s pregnancy centers. All of this is critical information for communities and lawmakers to understand the importance of pregnancy centers in the state.
“It’s proof of good collaboration between the centers and the value we bring serving the women of our communities,” said Rodriguez-Williams.
That value includes offering different types of services and programs. For example, Abba’s House started offering Abortion Pill Reversal in May of this year. The idea to do so came from discussions at one the directors’ meetings.
“We had a new medical director, an OB, and when I told her about it, she said, ‘Sure! Let’s do it!’” Schrock said. “The board approved the idea as well, and though we haven’t had any calls yet, we plan to advertise the service more after we get our mobile unit. Our medical director will oversee the program, meet with the patients after our nurses start the progesterone protocol. We have everything in place.”
True Care has also implemented new endeavors after Winship learned about them during these meetings. Adopt-a-College-Student, which happens at Legacy, the pregnancy center in Sheridan, and Embrace Grace, which takes place at Women’s Resource Center of Northeast Wyoming in Gillette, are now part of True Care’s offerings to its patients.
Preparing for a New Year
As these life-affirming, community-minded Wyoming centers prepare to enter another year, nearly all are experiencing an increase in the number of abortion-minded and abortion-determined patients. Casper, Riverton, Powell, and several other communities with medical pregnancy resource centers also have community colleges, which, in part, make up that clientele.
Although only one abortion provider in Wyoming advertises and the only Planned Parenthood clinic in the state closed two years ago, women in the state do seek abortions, mostly traveling out of state to do so. Wyoming’s pregnancy centers have the opportunity to serve these women first.
Gathering directors together each spring and fall helps these leaders in their endeavors not only to reach more women vulnerable to abortion, but to uplift each other in the challenges they face and the work they do.
“It’s nice to have a state coalition,” said Winship, who has served as True Care’s leader for two decades. “Twenty years ago the tenure for executive directors in Wyoming was three years on average. They felt alone and lacked support and connection. Through these meetings, we get to know each other and share both challenges and things that are working well.”
Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.