Faith & family: Center offers resources, support for womenPublished 12:11am Saturday, June 8, 2013
NATCHEZ — Pro-choice is not an adjective you’ll usually see associated with Virginia O’Beirne, but the local anti-abortion activist said that’s the goal she and a group of other volunteers have set forth — to offer women with unexpected or problem pregnancies more choices.
Since May, a group of volunteers from local churches has operated the Caring Hearts Pregnancy Resource Center in the annex building at New Covenant Presbyterian Church.
The goal of the center, O’Beirne said, is to serve as a clearinghouse of information for women seeking help with unexpected pregnancies.
“Someone told me that Natchez was the only town of any size in Mississippi that did not have a pregnancy resource center,” O’Bierne said. “I was surprised, and I felt that we needed to do something about that.”
Caring Hearts volunteer Ruth Powers said the ultimate goal of the center is to help women make positive, healthy choices during pregnancy, and to make access to the information for those choices readily available.
“We had a group member who did a study of this area for a thesis project, and what she found was that there are actually plenty of services available for women facing unplanned pregnancies, but they are uncoordinated,” Powers said. “Sometimes the one hand does not know what the other hand is doing.”
The center will also provide information about adoption services, how to be healthy during pregnancy and even information about what services are available to women if they decide to have a child, Powers said.
“We want to provide a place where women can start,” she said. “We have a questionnaire that asks what are your needs, and based on their answers, we refer them and even go with them to set them up with the services they need,” she said.
The other thing the center will do, she said, is provide friendship to those who need it.
“On the psychological level, we are here to provide these women with the knowledge that there is someone there they can talk to,” Powers said. “Everybody who is a volunteer with this group has had children or has children. If you are a first time mom, it is helpful to know that there are people out there who can help you out with advice and that they know how to raise a child.
“Some of our volunteers have been single mothers, who have raised children alone, so if someone says we need to walk a mile in their shoes, we have volunteers who have definitely walked that mile.”
The idea behind the center is that being pro-life is more than about opposing abortion, Powers said.
“Being pro-life is also about providing care and support to allow women to carry their babies to term so they don’t feel like abortion is their only choice,” she said.
“You hear so many people on the so-called pro-choice side who level the accusation that pro-life people don’t care about babies once they’re born. We realize that part of the reason women feel like abortion is the only option is that they feel like there aren’t people who will give them support, but we want them to know that there are people out there who care about their babies.”
And while the center is in a church and is run by people of faith, Powers said those seeking services don’t have to worry about religious pressure.
“You are not going to have to listen to any kind of a sermon from us, you are not going to have to promise to go to church,” she said. “We are strictly here to help women and help babies.”
“The first commandment at the top of our training materials is ‘Do not judge.’ We are not here to judge, that is not our purpose, we are here to help.”
In the long-term, Caring Hearts plans to open up a Mommy Store, which will provide baby clothes, furnishings and other goods at low to no cost, Powers said.
When it opens, that store will be in the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Natchez.
The pregnancy resource center is open 1 to 5 p.m. every Thursday at New Covenant Presbyterian Church. For more information, call (601) 870-4538 or contact O’Beirne at (601) 445-5783.
Powers said a training session for new volunteers will likely be conducted near the end of the summer.