By Tracy Riggs, Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
While the global COVID-19 pandemic dominated headlines, a newly constructed Planned Parenthood clinic quietly opened in Birmingham this summer.
The new clinic, termed the Birmingham Health Center on the Planned Parenthood website, is located in downtown Birmingham. The clinic formerly operated in a building in the Highlands area of the city.
The Planned Parenthood website notes a range of medical services offered at the clinic, including pregnancy testing and birth control, but no surgical abortion services currently are provided.
Early in the pandemic, efforts in several states, including Alabama, to close abortion clinics were thwarted by federal courts. In Texas, however, a court upheld a prohibition on the procedure.
Alabama currently has three abortion clinics, one each in Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Huntsville. Planned Parenthood operates an additional location in Mobile but currently does not provide surgical abortions at that location either.
Because abortion clinics are deemed “essential services” during the COVID-19 pandemic, faith-based pregnancy resource centers are doing their best to continue serving women experiencing crisis pregnancies.
Alabama has a network of nearly 60 pregnancy resource centers, including several Sav-A-Life locations and multiple other faith-based centers, some of which are mobile.
The centers provide pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Many provide parenting classes and other resources for mother and child, and even fathers, to help meet their physical needs, as well as counseling to address their spiritual and emotional needs.
A little more than a mile away from Birmingham’s new Planned Parenthood clinic is Her Choice Birmingham Women’s Center, a pregnancy resource center offering a full range of free services to pregnant women.
Her Choice Birmingham sees about eight clients a day who are abortion minded, abortion vulnerable or who want to carry to term but are scared or need help, according to Joy Pinto, executive director of Her Choice Birmingham.
In March, Her Choice Birmingham shut down due to the pandemic. Volunteers continued to monitor phones, check on clients and make sure those currently pregnant had the resources they needed.
For new clients who were abortion minded, Her Choice Birmingham worked with them by phone, Pinto said.
“COVID or no COVID, babies come due,” Pinto said.
Her Choice Birmingham opened again May 1 and got busy quickly due to the backlog of women who hadn’t been able to get help.
“We had one client who was homeless and pregnant, so we were working with her before COVID. When COVID hit, it got worse for her. … We made sure she had food; she had shelter. … Now she’s waiting to deliver,” said Pinto.
Alabama law requires a woman have an ultrasound, full disclosure about abortion procedures and types, and a 48-hour waiting period, which gives women time to consider their decision more carefully, Pinto said.
“We’ve had hundreds of cases of girls who thought abortion was their answer and would solve all of their problems. Once they’ve gone through counseling, [seen their baby on the ultrasound] and were able to bond and calm down the fear, they’d choose life,” Pinto said. “Usually it takes one person, just one person, to come alongside a girl with an unplanned pregnancy … to say, ‘We can do this’ … and she’ll choose life.”
Editor’s note. This article first appeared at TABOnline.org. Tracy Riggs is a writer and photographer based in Birmingham, Ala.