Pregnancy Centers Critical Work Needs All of Us

By Judy VanSwol Education Director, Wisconsin Right to Life

* Don’t abort us during COVID-19.  Our moms are scared and need us.

*We are going through about 4x the amount of diapers that we normally do, with so many families getting laid off…All of our church-sponsored diaper drives have been canceled…

*Our building is closed down right now…

*We’ve made tough decisions. Locked doors, phone screenings, two paid staffers managing the center alone… Those who depend most on the services [we] provide cannot wait for ‘normalcy’ to return.

*More than 60 moms and their families have come in for help in the last four weeks alone…we’ve had numerous calls and texts from abortion-minded moms and expect a surge of calls in the next several weeks due to the Stay-at-Home order.

*I could use your help! I am starting to get very nervous.  We cancelled the banquet because of COVID-19; we budget based a lot on banquet donations…So far we’ve only raised a small fraction of what we need; do you have any ideas how to bring in more?

As the liaison between Wisconsin Right to Life and the pregnancy centers of Wisconsin, these are just some of the emails I have been receiving the past few weeks.

While we are all are struggling with the “new normal” that the coronavirus pandemic has imposed on our lives, pregnancy centers have been particularly affected.  There is an outpouring of love for medical helpers, sanitation workers and emergency responders world-wide. Pregnancy center workers are no less on the front lines, and are also in need of our prayers and encouragement. Their work of affirming life, which is incredibly challenging even in normal circumstances, has been greatly complicated by imposed isolation from the very clients who need them more than ever.

Volunteers have been sent home and the remaining paid staff is battling fatigue as they try to meet client needs.  All centers are reporting shortages of baby supplies, cleaning supplies, and personal protective equipment.  About a quarter of the Wisconsin centers have simply closed their doors for the time being.  The remaining centers are frantically trying to adapt to new procedures, heightened concern for safety, and a foreign world of hosting Zoom parenting classes and virtual fundraising.  Their anxiety over the future well-being of their centers is palpable.

Centers that are open are seeing more clients, receiving more phone calls, and anticipating even greater needs in the future.  As one director said, “While the world is in flux, the reality is that life goes on for our clients.  They are still faced with unplanned pregnancies; they still have to make decisions about their pregnancies; they still need to provide for their families.”

Perhaps because I was once an executive director for two pregnancy resource centers, I feel their struggle more than others might.  I vividly remember how, even in “normal” times, staff, budgets, and resources were often stretched.

For that reason, it has been my unique privilege during this pandemic to be positioned as an encourager to these centers and directors.  As I have called, emailed, and texted the centers and directors, I am impressed with the sheer determination and courage exemplified.  Yes, I have seen and heard the weariness, battle fatigue and anxiety.  But, overwhelmingly, I have been a witness to their tenacity and faith.

They are determined to keep their doors open; to be there for panicked, abortion-minded women; to find the diapers, wipes and formula their clients are depending on.  They are totally committed to protecting the lives of the unborn and assisting moms and families in distress. They have resolved to be there now—when clients need them the most—and in the future.

I have also been deeply grateful, again, for the resolve and efforts of Wisconsin Right to Life to pioneer the way and support the work of pregnancy centers.

Because centers are closed, there are women who are not finding the help they need.  How critical it is, then, to make sure that WRTL’s use of technology–text messaging and polygoning efforts—continue so women can hear the truth even while they sit in an abortion center.

The pregnancy centers are preparing for busy days ahead.  Their clients face unemployment, lack of routine medical care, and difficulty in providing food and other necessities for their children.  The pregnancy centers know that their centers will inundated in coming days with clients who will present endless scenarios of desperation and need.

How exciting, then, to be able to offer emergency grants from Wisconsin Right to Life!  As the administrator of the grants, I find it so rewarding to be able to offer financial assistance that enables women to make and keep life-affirming decisions.  Already this year, Wisconsin Right to Life has distributed twice as many grants as we did by this time last year.  Working through pregnancy centers, our emergency grants have allowed women to pay rent, repair cars, pay medical bills, escape abusive partners, and find hope.  

One woman who received a grant wrote, “How can I ever thank you enough for all your help.  We have a merciful God, and it shows through people like you!”

The future is uncertain; perhaps none of us will go back to life as we knew it a few short months ago; perhaps– like all businesses and nonprofits–pregnancy centers will find themselves ministering and fundraising in completely new and innovative ways.  What is certain is that circumstances have not altered the commitment of Wisconsin Right to Life and Wisconsin pregnancy resource centers to protect life and save the unborn.  We are all experiencing this “storm” in different ways, but if we remain positive and put our faith in the Giver of Life, we can all emerge stronger than ever.

All of you can play a part by being a champion for life in Wisconsin!  You can support WRTL and our pregnancy centers right now with your donations and your words of encouragement and faith.  One director wrote: “Thank you so much for your phone calls and messages of concern.  It is such a blessing to know that there are people and organizations concerned about our work and concerned about us, personally.”

God bless all of you as we go through these historic times, trusting in the Lord and committing to be faithful in what He calls us to do for Him!

“God go before you to lead you. God go behind you to protect you. God go beneath you to support you. God go beside you to befriend you. Do not be afraid; May the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you and bless you. Do not be afraid; go in love and peace to serve the Lord.”