By Moira Gaul and Michael J. New
There has been an increased need for pregnancy help across America since 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. Life-affirming pregnancy centers continue to step up to the task by providing essential tailored services, medical care and relational and material support to hundreds of thousands of women and families.
At a time when many state legislatures have enacted pro-life protections, pregnancy centers’ valuable services are equipping new moms and dads with prenatal and parenting education. They are providing free health care and needed material items.
In states where abortion is still widely available and aggressively marketed, pregnancy centers remain beacons of help and hope, offering compassion and confidentiality, trusted education and resources and free professional health care that does not promote abortion.
The continued deep impact of pregnancy centers is undeniable based upon newly released results from a national pregnancy center report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, where we are both employed.
The report, “Hope for a New Generation,” shows that pregnancy centers responded to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022 with flying colors. This report surveyed 2,750 pregnancy centers in all 50 states and counted medical mobile units as separate center locations. It found increases in the number of clients seen, services provided, and material resources distributed as compared to data collected for 2019.
In 2022, pregnancy centers recorded a total of more than 16 million client visits, in person and virtual, and provided over $358 million worth of goods and services, including diapers, baby formula, new car seats, baby clothing and furniture. The centers saw more than 974,000 new clients and more than 600,000 students for community-based education presentations. Even more impressively, more than 97 percent of those who sought assistance at pregnancy centers reported a positive experience.
Sadly, the outstanding work of pregnancy centers has not always been well received. Last July, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed legislation that would limit the free speech rights of pregnancy centers in his state. Due to litigation, the Illinois attorney general’s office recently agreed not to enforce this law.
However, pro-abortion rights elected officials continue efforts to undermine the work of pregnancy centers. Even worse, since the leak of the Dobbs decision in May 2022, there have been at least 88 attacks on pro-life organizations and pregnancy centers, according to data from Catholic Vote.
Despite this hostility, many pro-lifers are energized and eager to assist pregnancy centers with their mission. “Hope for a New Generation” saw increases in paid staff and particularly in paid medical staff at pregnancy centers in 2022. The total number of paid and volunteer staff at pregnancy centers totaled more than 62,000 people, over 10,000 of whom are licensed medical professionals. Additionally, more than 71 percent of pregnancy center workers are volunteers.
The growing number of medical and health care professionals allow pregnancy centers to offer an even wider range of services. For instance, in 2022 more than 81 percent of pregnancy centers provided more than 517,000 ultrasounds by registered nurses, licensed sonographers and other licensed medical professionals. More than 25 percent provide breastfeeding consultations. And the percentage of centers providing abortion pill reversal has more than doubled to 27 percent.
Academic researchers have also acknowledged the effectiveness of pregnancy centers. Earlier this year, the academic journal Contraception published a rigorous study that found very strong statistical evidence that pregnancy centers offer better and less expensive services than abortion facilities. In particular, it found that pregnancy centers had shorter appointment wait-times, and that abortion facilities frequently charge for pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, whereas pregnancy centers almost never charged for these services.
Another unheralded victory for the right-to-life movement has been the reduction in the U.S. abortion rate. Since 1980, it has fallen by more than 50 percent. One key reason for this decline is that a higher percentage of unintended pregnancies have been carried to term.
The increase in both the number of pregnancy centers and their scope of services, including medical care, have almost certainly played a role in this trend. Post-Dobbs, even more states will enact protections for unborn children, increasing these centers’ importance.
The “Hope for a New Generation” national study results provide powerful evidence that pregnancy centers will step up to the challenge by providing life-affirming alternatives oases of authentic care and critical resources to women, children and families in communities across the country.
Editor’s note. Moira Gaul is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, where she works on pregnancy center studies and women’s health-related issues. Michael J. New is an assistant professor of practice at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and a senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. This first appeared in The Hill.