Pregnancy care: Reaching beyond the crisis
By Jennifer McClure
About a year ago, Mariesa Ho was 5-months pregnant with their second child when her husband moved out. With a decline in household income, two months away from college graduation and a minimum-wage job, Ho ran low on funds.
Phone calls from her parents, serving as Assemblies of God
missionaries in the Netherlands, provided comfort, but didn’t help with the
immediate assistance she needed.
Then the Pregnancy Care Center in Springfield, Mo., gave her
food, diapers and crisis intervention. Right before her bank account hit empty,
a Care Center mentor connected Ho with a better paying part-time job.
“God used Pregnancy Care Center to assure me, I’m here with
you, I see you, and I will provide for you and take care of you,” Ho says.
Nationwide, many pregnancy care centers are expanding beyond
crisis intervention counseling to also provide medical services, material
assistance, parenting programs, postabortion ministry, men’s ministry and more.
Such extra services helped Ho survive her crisis financially, spiritually,
physically and emotionally.
“We look at it as holistic care — caring for the
mother’s physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health,” says Peggy
Hartshorn, founder and president of Heartbeat International, a resource network
for pro-life centers based in Columbus, Ohio. “When all those things are
supported, then she makes the decision for life.”
Eight years ago, Heartbeat International assisted in the
opening of the Pregnancy Care Center in Springfield, Mo., which since has added
an ultrasound program; classes on parenting, adoption and the law; postabortion
recovery counseling; and a fatherhood program, just to name a few.
“If Christians don’t do this, nobody else will,” says Cindi
Boston, director of the center and a member of Central Assembly of God in
Springfield. “It’s our responsibility to reach out to those facing unintended
pregnancies. We meet the needs of the young women and men initially through
educational services, and can then prepare them for parenting or adoption with
classes and mentoring.”
Elizabeth New Life Center in Dayton, Ohio, is another center
that ascribes to holistic care. Life skills classes, money management
education, material assistance, marriage education and medical services are
some of the ways Elizabeth New Life ministers to a client beyond the moment of
“If God sends us somebody, our response is ‘How do we help
this person?’ ” says Vivian Koob, director of the center.
The increasing availability of ultrasound technology has
aided the shift to holistic care, Hartshorn says. According to Heartbeat
International, up to 80 percent of abortion-vulnerable clients who see their
babies or hear their babies’ heartbeats through ultrasound choose life. Nearly
a third of the nation’s 2,300 care centers can give ultrasounds, Hartshorn
“This service is really attractive to a woman who is
considering an abortion, since it is a diagnosis of pregnancy,” Hartshorn says.
“At the same time, she can see her growing, developing baby and hear the baby’s
heartbeat, which helps her bond to that baby.”
Another growing medical service within pregnancy care
centers is prenatal care and nutrition education, a program the Pregnancy Care
Center has offered since it first opened in 2000.
“More than 1,000 young women have attended six 30-minute
sessions on nutrition,” Boston says. “Out of all of those, not one has had a
A unique medical service connected with Elizabeth New Life
Center is Holy Family Pediatrics in Dayton, Ohio.
“It’s wonderful for our clients to have a godly pediatrician
who’s willing to take them in as Medicaid patients,” Koob says. “It’s another
way we honor, support and value people. They deserve the best pediatric care,
and we’re able, by the grace of God, to provide it.”
Hartshorn says fatherhood programs are another valuable
service more pregnancy care centers are starting to provide. In the past when
men came into a pregnancy care center, they often just sat in the waiting room.
Guys for Life, a nonprofit organization in St. Louis,
assists pregnancy care centers in starting men’s programs. Last year, Guys for
Life launched a national fatherhood program, and by May, Director Kurt Ramspott
says 58 pregnancy care centers will have received training.
Pregnancy Care Center in Springfield became the first center
Guys for Life partnered with under the national fatherhood program. In the
program’s first year, more than 160 dads received mentoring at the care center.
“We realized that these young men didn’t really understand
the fatherhood role, and if we could make that clear and give them some tools,
we could dramatically decrease the amount of abuse and neglect in our
community,” Boston says.
According to a survey Ramspott conducted of 100 care center
directors, 71 said men are the greatest source of pressure for women to have an
Another key factor influencing a woman to undergo an
abortion is if they previously had one. Half of all abortions involve women who
have had at least one previously, Hartshorn says.
“If we’re not actively reaching out to them, trying to
provide healing, they will have additional abortions,” Hartshorn says.
In an effort to minister to the hurting as well as prevent
future abortions, many care centers, including Elizabeth New Life Center and
Pregnancy Care Center in Springfield, recently began offering postabortion
Though many may see the holistic care as needed, it’s
understood that crisis intervention takes priority when resources are limited.
“The most important part of the mission is to serve women
who might be abortion-minded or abortion-vulnerable, and provide the resources
that are going to help them make a life decision,” Koob says.
As baby Ilena, a 14-pound bundle of joy, learns to crawl,
mother Mariesa Ho, now a college graduate, is grateful for the choice she made.
“It’s not easy, but I would not trade it for anything,” Ho
says. “I look at her face in the morning and can’t imagine how horrible my life
would be without her."
JENNIFER McCLURE is assistant editor of Today’s Pentecostal
Evangel and blogs at jmcclure.agblogger.org.
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