By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research
Editor’s note. On Thursday, Dr. O’Bannon shared his excitement over “The Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Movement,” a new book on the work of pregnancy resource centers written by Laura S. Hussey. Today he continues his review with Prof. Hussey’s assessment of these centers’ effectiveness. Information how to purchase the book is found at the end of Part Two.
An effective ministry
A great deal of prayer, many hours of work and training and building relationships have gone into it. A lot of money has been spent on buildings, staff and equipment. All of it raises the obvious question about pregnancy care centers: “Are they effective?”
Do they save lives?
Prof. Hussey helps the reader appreciate that this is a complex question. Pro-life advocates want to know how many babies are saved from abortion – and there is good news on that front. But the scope of the ministry of pregnancy care centers extends to rescuing women along with their babies, positively influencing their families and their communities, even trying to save society as a whole from the destructive culture of death.
What numbers there are
The incidence of abortion in the United States is down dramatically from what it was the 1980s and 1990s when there were over 1.6 million abortions a year and abortion rates were at their peaks. The timing of these drops is consistent with the growth and ramped up activity of pregnancy care centers, but also with the passage of life-saving protective legislation, the election of pro-life office holders, and an increased public awareness of fetal humanity made possible by advancing medical technology.
Tracking the number of women who call, who come in, who receive goods and services, who have ultrasounds, who go on to have their babies is good measure of the center’s activity and effort. But some women who come to the center have already decided against aborting their babies and just appreciate the help and support the staff provides.
What researchers want to know is how often an abortion-minded pregnant woman visits a pregnancy care center and changes her mind as a result of her encounter. Hussey’s Pregnancy Center Staff Survey found that more than two-thirds of staff members reported having been personally involved in a situation in which a client had seriously been considering abortion but later chose to give birth. This was true of more than four out of five persons working as “peer counselors” and nearly all of those reported as being in more than one such situation.
According to Hussey, available records show that more than a quarter of women inclined to or actively considering abortion—those most predisposed not to listen–do change their minds, a remarkable tribute to the dedication, professionalism, and hard work of the pregnancy center staff. The lives of even more, who might want to keep or at least are more open to keeping their babies but otherwise don’t arrive with the best prospects, have seen their lives transformed.
While centers and their supporters would obviously like to see higher success rates, those numbers reflect substantial numbers of lives saved and redirected that were likely otherwise headed for destruction.
As these pregnancy help centers grow in sophistication and more and more of them provide ultrasounds, there is every reason to believe more women who come in undecided or leaning toward aborting will change their minds.
Attracting the abortion vulnerable
It is a real challenge, though, to attract strongly abortion-minded women to these centers, even if the staff are supportive and non-judgmental. This is one reason that pregnancy help organizations have beefed up their online presence, using state-of-the-art web design, the possibility of live on-line chatting with a trained counselor 24/7, and connection to a nationwide network of pregnancy help centers.
On the local level, a modern building, the professional manner and expertise of well-trained staff and counselors, along with free medical services such as ultrasounds, attract some women who might not otherwise come in.
Sticking with the moms after decisions are made
Contrary to the myths perpetrated by the media and hostile academics, the mission of pregnancy help centers is to save babies and to continue to help their mothers after their babies are born by assisting them to develop parenting skills, find work, and housing.
Pregnancy care centers put a lie to oft repeated but wholly false claim that pro-lifers only care for the baby until he or she is born.
Moreover, pro-lifers are also the only ones who are ready to help those women who have had abortions grieve, rather than deny the reality of their pain, Most pregnancy care centers have active and effective post-abortion healing support groups.
It may be difficult to prove statistically, but the impact of pregnancy care centers is cumulative– that is, it affects not only an individual woman’s immediate pregnancy, but her future ones as well.
Instead of falling into a cycle of repeated pregnancy and abortion, a woman who comes to the center and decides to keep her baby, goes through pregnancy and parenting classes and learns how to manage her time, money, and relationships. This experience may start down the course of a whole new life for herself, her child, and her entire family.
Thus, that impact may not only be huge in the short term, but generational.
Conclusion: Buy this book!
What you have read here represents only a fraction of the wealth of information found in Prof. Hussey’s book. Besides additional historical detail and further scientific data from her original research, Hussey provides a good overview of the current issues and challenges facing the pregnancy help movement.
For example, trying to balance between “going medical” with ultrasound and other health services and the traditional provision of material assistance and lifestyle training. This is not only a question of financial resources, space allotment, and location placement, but, to a larger degree, a matter the clientele the center wishes to concentrate.
A center next door to a college campus will need to be quite different than one in the suburbs or the inner city. Each presents its own separate challenges and possibilities.
Women choose abortion for a variety of reasons. Pregnancy care centers have designed their programs and done their best to ensure that no woman aborts because of economic uncertainty, coercion from partners or parents, or feelings of inadequacy about their ability to care for their child.
Determining the best way to reach women who don’t want to be reminded of a bad relationship or go through the experience of pregnancy and rearing a child is going to be an ongoing challenge, but one that these committed carers continue to tackle.
Those inside the pregnancy help movement, those concerned about efforts to reach abortion vulnerable women, to save them and their babies, those who want to understand more about a key piece of the larger social struggle against the culture of death would benefit greatly from buying and reading Hussey’s excellent work.
This book has the potential not only to inform us, but to make us all more effective in our life-saving work.
“The Pro-Life Pregnancy Help Movement” can be purchased from the publisher here for 34.95. If you decide to purchase the book at Amazon, here is the link. You can designate the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund as your charity and a portion of your purchase will be given to the NRL Ed Trust Fund.