One of the most effective initiatives of today’s pro-life movement is the crisis pregnancy center. There are more than 3,000 of these facilities across the country, staffed mostly by female volunteers who want to provide effective help to women who otherwise might abort their children.
It is not enough for these volunteers to vote for pro-life politicians and protest in front of abortion clinics. No, they want to show their love toward all the actors in the drama — mother, child and father — in a personal and human way, hoping for an outcome that preserves a life and strengthens a family.
These centers are gall and wormwood to abortion activists. They especially dislike my own contribution to the rescue effort: fetal ultrasound. I donate my time at several centers to read the studies that are done at no cost, for any woman who walks in the door. The pro-abortionists are right to be afraid of our work.
There is nothing more affecting, more emotionally connecting, than the sight of the little fetus, which we can see as early as three weeks post-conception, and the sound of his/her swooshing heartbeat, so much faster than the mother’s. I’ve seen it time and again: the panic and sometimes anger at the unexpected challenge of a pregnancy in a young woman’s eyes turning into tenderness and protectiveness, to motherliness with all its noble aspirations.
The ultrasounds are also used to date the pregnancy and establish an expected date of delivery. The mother and father are then offered help in many ways: assistance enrolling in Medicaid or Medi-Cal; assurances of free diapers, formula and baby gear when the moment comes; and even spousal and parenting classes.
For those who choose abortion instead, the door remains open, with counselors ready to assist women and men who mourn the loss of their children and need compassionate help to heal. In short, everything that can be done to fight the culture of death is done at these centers, and always with delicacy and tenderness.
The response of an outraged abortion lobby, which has not been able to force these centers to close outright, is to hijack them to spread their own pro-choice message. In California, the FACT Act requires them to post signs conspicuously advertising the fact that the state offers free or low-cost abortion, with a phone number to call for an appointment. Similar laws have been enacted in Texas, Hawaii, Maryland and Illinois, and all of them are being challenged in court.
The laws are clearly unjust, as they favor the financial bottom lines of abortion clinics over the free-speech rights of the crisis pregnancy centers. Planned Parenthood makes money with every procedure they divert from a pro-life center, and it is very much in their interests to get the government to overregulate the competition, and even make them advertise their own services.
Stephen Casey, a lawyer from the Alliance Defending Freedom, described it this way: “This is as if when you go to McDonald’s they have to advertise that they don’t sell Whoppers, or if Home Depot has to advertise that they don’t sell dresses or tennis shoes.” Of course, abortion clinics are not asked to post notices in their waiting rooms announcing that they do not provide prenatal care, parenting classes or other assistance to women who want help welcoming their children into the world.
The unjust laws promulgated against crisis pregnancy centers also fly in the face of America’s long tradition of protecting the conscience rights of all people. The volunteers simply can’t promote abortion without grave moral implications. They are motivated to be there because they are on a pro-life mission and are compelled by their faith to support both the mother and the child. These laws present them a terrible choice: violate their conscience or stop working at the center.
It is to be hoped that some of the legal challenges being made across the country, for instance a recent lawsuit in Hawaii, may make it all the way to the Supreme Court. It may take our country’s highest court to definitively liberate pro-life volunteers from politicians too deeply connected to a powerful abortion lobby — freeing the volunteers to go on helping mothers and fathers choose the path of hope and life, and, ultimately, joy.