This summer I interviewed for a counselor position at a crisis pregnancy center.
I had seen the office before: the restroom where countless pregnancy tests have been taken; the small, comfortable rooms where counselors held appointments; the ultrasound room where tiny heartbeats were seen and heard for the first time; the store where mothers could use coupons earned by participating in educational opportunities to buy baby necessities.
I had even been through two initial appointments there myself when we found ourselves expecting and money was tight.
What I hadn’t realized was that, in situations of unplanned, crisis, or unwanted pregnancies, the staff set out not only to save the life of an unborn child or give women access to free pregnancy tests and resources (as important as those things are); the counselors want to give women hope, confidence, and the ability to look within and see their own strength. In short, they want to empower every woman they encounter.
My interviewer described to me the approach that counselors took in that initial appointment. She stressed that the goal of the appointment is never to convince the woman one way or another. Instead, counselors provide each woman with information regarding all options, and work to help her realize that she has the strength to do hard things, to be courageous in the face of this difficult situation, and to assure her that there are people ready to love and support her. If the woman chooses to she can continue meeting with a counselor regularly throughout her pregnancy for support, resources, and caring community.
I have worked at two different maternity homes, and have seen firsthand the freedom that women experience when they discover and engage their strength, gifts, passions, and sheer willpower. It is incredible to watch these empowered women getting and staying sober or clean, finishing or going back to school, applying for jobs, dreaming about their futures with hope rather than despair. Women are capable of amazing things! I honestly believe one of our greatest feminine gifts is the ability to carry on in the face of even seemingly impossible situations.
I honestly believe one of our greatest feminine gifts is the ability to carry on in the face of even seemingly impossible situations.
The value of authentically empowering women, in a world where they are told that they are simultaneously not enough and too much, can not be overstated.
“Your fertility is too much of a burden, you need contraception to keep it in check, or else...”
“You weren’t smart enough/careful enough to not get pregnant.”
“This pregnancy is too much for you to handle.”
“You are too much for me to handle now that you are pregnant.”
“You can’t support a child financial/physically/emotionally.”
“You will be on your own, you can’t do this as a single mother.”
“You are too far ahead in your career to let this pregnancy get in the way.”
“You are too poor.”
“You are too young.”
“You are too old.”
Too much. Not enough. Can’t, can’t, can’t.
Is this really the best we can do for women?
Is it really in the best interest of a woman to tell her all the reasons she can’t and then offer her a single “solution”? How can she make this decision, a decision that will affect the rest of her life, when she has been told that only one option is really viable and acceptable? Backing her into a corner where she must make this decision based on fear and scarcity is neither empowering nor liberating.
How can we, women who are passionate about empowering other women, begin to change the conversation, to advance true liberation for women in unplanned pregnancies? How can we show that our dual calls to defend life and empower women are not incongruous, but are in fact two complimentary parts of one inseparable call to action?
How can we, women who are passionate about empowering other women, begin to change the conversation, to advance true liberation for women in unplanned pregnancies?
Ironically, I think changing the conversation is going to involve a lot less talking and a lot more doing. Don’t get me wrong, I love discussing, defining terms, and citing references, but in order to make the necessary shift we need to act first and let that be a springboard for discussion. Rather than insisting that we love and support pregnant women in the comments of Facebook posts or Twitter discussions, let’s get up, reach out, and empower the individual women in these circumstances. If the world takes notice and begins to realize that being pro-life does in fact mean being pro-women, great; but if not, at least we know we have done what we could to empower women in the midst of serious difficulties.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34 & 35
There are many organizations that are already working to defend human life by empowering and supporting women, here is a list of some, collected from our contributors and Facebook Forum members:
“Believing in the sanctity of life and the innate value of each person, Hannah’s House is a maternity home that provides a safe environment, programming and support for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of pregnant young women.”
“Maggie’s Place provides houses of hospitality and ongoing support to help pregnant and parenting women in need reach their goals, and welcomes them into a community filled with love and dignity.”
“Respecting and affirming life from the moment of conception, MiraVia is a safe haven and source of hope for pregnant mothers and their children. Invoking a Christ-centered approach inspired by the examples of Mary and Joseph, MiraVia helps young families move toward a new life of hopeful, independent, and healthy living and educates the broader community on the importance of fostering a culture of life.”
Crisis Pregnancy Centers
The Women’s Care Center
“Women's Care Center provides free, confidential counseling, support and education to women facing unplanned pregnancies. We serve 26,000 women annually from 28 centers in 10 states.”
www.helpassisther.com [App coming soon!]
“Women's healthcare resources in the palm of your hand”
Organizations offering support and resources
VISION: for every girl with an unplanned pregnancy to have a church to go to for spiritual, emotional and physical support
MISSION: to inspire and equip the church to love on single and pregnant young women and their families
“You can do it. We can help.”
“We believe women are empowered to make positive life decisions when they are equipped with the resources and support they need. Project Rosie connects women to these resources and a community of friends, so that they are empowered to accomplish their goals and settle for nothing less than their full potential.”
Pregnant on Campus Initiative
“The Pregnant on Campus Initiative is a nationwide, student-driven effort to empower students to make life-affirming pregnancy and parenting decisions.”
Women Deserve Better
“Women Deserve Better: For us, that means better information, better support, and better choices. Life brings challenges. We bring empowerment, because we’ll never underestimate women.”
Educational and Activist Organizations:
“Educate- Empower- Engage”
Mission: To educate physicians and healthcare professionals using medical evidence so they may empower women and engage men to appreciate and care for their fertility.
John Paul II Center for Women
“We are committed to fostering respect for the dignity of women and to working to advance her true good, both in our culture and in the world.”
The Guiding Star Project
“We seek to create a culture that honors and upholds the natural feminine gifts and abilities and encourages women in all circumstances to embrace their dignity and find empowerment through these gifts and abilities.”
Feminists for Life
“Feminists for Life of America recognizes that abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women. We are dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion—primarily lack of practical resources and support—through holistic, woman-centered solutions. Women deserve better than abortion...Our efforts are shaped by the core feminist values of nondiscrimination, nonviolence and justice for all.”
New Wave Feminists
“So, let's work towards a culture that supports a woman so well that she never has to have [an abortion]. Let's work towards a culture that tells her ‘You Can,’ ‘You Are Strong Enough,’ and ‘If You Need Some Help - We Are Here,’ because that is what the sisterhood is all about.”
“As pro-life feminists, we demand better than abortion, we demand better than dehumanization, we demand better than a society that accepts violence. And we are working to create that culture of peace.”
What can YOU do?
- Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center or maternity home.
- Donate new and gently used maternity clothes and baby items to maternity homes. While all generosity is greatly appreciated, sorting donations requires time and volunteers/staff members, so be mindful of the condition/relevance of the items you donate. Also keep in mind the demographic in your area and donate appropriately.
- Donate local public transportation passes to maternity homes. Public transportation is usually the residents’ primary means of getting to and from doctor and social service appointments, work or school. This is a great way to directly empower a woman to take the necessary steps to develop her own strengths and skills so she can make the best life possible for herself!
- Write “Dear Brave Girl” letters or other letters of support. Better yet, host a girls’ night in and ask your friends to all write letters with you!
- For more creative ideas check out this resource.
If you feel called to fight for the unborn, fight for authentic empowerment for women - with active service, motivated by love, without agendas or politics or pretense. That is when hearts will begin to change, discussions and solutions will be more authentic, and will bear more fruit.
I want to see defending life become synonymous with empowering women - it's time we lead that change.