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With Roe v. Wade now overturned, a refrain I keep hearing from abortion proponents is that those who claim to be “pro-life” need to step up to do just that: Protect life.
The message goes along the lines that if the anti-abortion camp really believes in helping women and saving babies, then it should do more to aid them before – and after – the child is born. It's jarring then that the crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes that do this work are the target of both political animus and actual violence.
“The increase in direct attacks against pregnancy health organizations is alarming,” said Andrea Trudden, vice president of communications and marketing at Heartbeat International, which has 1,900 affiliate pregnancy centers in the United States.
Trudden told me that since the draft of the Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe leaked in May, violence against the centers has become much more common. In June, Trudden said, member surveys showed that harassment and attacks doubled, with about 30% reporting such incidents. There was also an uptick in actual damage to the facilities, whether spray painting, broken windows or firebombing.
“It’s very disturbing to see those who say they are doing this in the name of women’s health and for women are shutting down places where women go for free resources and services,” Trudden said. “They are literally denying women care they are seeking out.”
Competition to abortion?
Pregnancy centers run mostly on donations, and offer their services for free or little cost. Those benefits include pregnancy testing and counseling but also parenting classes and material necessities like formula.
What seems to irk abortion-rights supporters is the fact these centers don’t advocate for abortion. California tried to force pregnancy centers to post information about abortion services, but the Supreme Court struck down that provision. Other states keep trying, though.
Recently, Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she had a bill that would “crack down on ‘so-called crisis pregnancy centers’” – and fine them – if they “mislead and deceive patients seeking abortion care.”
Warren went as far as to say that these centers “fool people” and "torture" them, and that “we need to shut them down all around the country.”
Other Democrats in Congress, along with Warren, sent a letter to Google last month, requesting that it suppresses search results for pregnancy centers they label “fake clinics.”
So much for giving women choices.
“It’s baffling to us,” said Trudden, who pointed out that Heartbeat pregnancy centers are upfront that they are not abortion clinics and don’t recommend women get abortions. As their name suggests, they are about helping women through their pregnancies, even tough ones. That’s their mission.
To Trudden and others doing this work, the pushback seems more about attacking anything that could be seen as competition to abortion.
“If abortion is the only option, what does that tell women?” Trudden asked.
Offering women choices
Many women want something different, but they may feel like they have no other choice.
For the past 16 years, Kathleen Wilson has worked to give pregnant women in crisis options other than abortion.
As executive director of Mary's Shelter in Virginia, Wilson said the shelter has taken in 400 women since 2006. The shelter has grown to offer 24 bedrooms to pregnant women and their existing children. Families can stay up to three years, although a few have stayed even longer.
Not only does the shelter, funded through donations, ensure that immediate needs are met, but it also offers pathways to education and employment, counseling and parenting classes.
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While these centers aren’t political organizations, they would welcome more discussion about policies that could help families longer term and complement the work they do. Some Republicans have legislation that deserves attention, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. The GOP should take on these issues as more states limit abortion.
Part of Rubio’s proposal is to remove barriers to federal grants for faith-based organizations that provide social services, as well as pregnancy centers. Given the expansive network that already exists, this seems a smart way to help them scale their impact.
Wilson wants her work to be a model to others, and she has helped start other shelters in Virginia and around the country. She said there is a lot of interest in expanding these options for women, especially now that Roe is overturned.
“The pro-life community is really stepping up at this point,” Wilson said. “We all need to be prepared because the needs will be so great, and we need to keep growing to keep meeting those needs.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pregnancy centers aid women in crisis. So why does the left hate them?