Texas Pregnancy Centers See Clientele Shift After Abortion…… | News & Reporting

On paper, Texas’ Heartbeat Act — the most restrictive ban on abortion in the nation — doesn’t affect the nearly 200 pregnancy centers across the state because those facilities don’t perform abortions. abortions nor perform abortions.

Yet those working at pro-life pregnancy centers have seen their clientele change since the law was passed in September, making it illegal to perform abortions on women when a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The centers have been inundated with phone calls from women fearing they may be pregnant or not knowing the details of the law. Tonya Thomas, executive director of Pregnancy Help 4 U in Keller, Texas, said calls and visits from clients were immediately attended to.

“Before, we saw them at 6-8 weeks pregnant,” she said. “Now we just see them at 4 weeks, as soon as they think they should have their period. … They know time is running out.

Women who are more advanced know they will have to cross state lines to get an abortion, so they go straight to out-of-state facilities, like in Oklahoma and New Mexico, where there are fewer restrictions. New clients to Texas centers often arrive in shock and despair, never expecting to face a decision so early in the pregnancy.

“We heard that some customers were upset at pregnancy centers themselves, thinking they are to blame for the new law,” said Vincent DiCaro, director of outreach (COO) of Care Net, the evangelical network of more than 1,100 pregnancy centers across the country and 168 in Texas. “A lot of our centers have said it’s a very difficult environment.”

The controversial law is a victory for life advocates – the University of Texas estimates that 8 out of 10 women who seek an abortion will now go full term – but the ruling also puts more pressure on women who experience unintended pregnancies. planned. They need to make a quick decision because heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks, around the time many women realize they are pregnant.

Lone Star Pregnancy Center staff across the state tell CT of large numbers of panicked women who aren’t even sure they’re pregnant – one woman is still mid-cycle – coming in for pregnancy tests free offered by their establishments.

“They’re unfriendly, rushed, and unwilling to answer questions,” said Deborah McGregor, executive director of the Care Net Pregnancy Center of Central Texas, located across from Planned Parenthood in Waco.

Women usually come to clinics to get free pregnancy tests or an ultrasound to find a heartbeat. Some do not have health insurance to cover doctor’s appointments. Thomas told the story of a woman who came to Pregnancy Help 4 U after the local Planned Parenthood quoted $95 just to see her. Unable to pay, she turned to the center for help.

“Our client attorney asked if she had considered adoption, and she hadn’t,” Thomas said. “She had literally thought abortion was her only option, but we were able to relay that information…have a spiritual conversation, and she left in tears.”

With only 600 Planned Parenthood centers nationwide and less than two dozen abortion clinics in Texas, pregnancy centers offering free services are generally more accessible and available.

Some clients arrive thinking they are being offered an abortion, a common mistake. They often stay, however, for free testing. This gives pregnancy center staff a brief opening to demonstrate care, inform each woman of options, and offer support if she chooses to continue with her pregnancy.

With intake forms, a brief history, and a pregnancy test, an appointment can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how quickly the client goes through the steps. Most centers offer high quality urine tests and results are delivered within minutes. Once the pregnancy is confirmed, women can then decide if it is worth making an appointment at an abortion clinic.

“More women decide to carry out [after visiting the clinic]said McGregor, who said she welcomes the opportunity to talk with women, regardless of their approach to dating. “We ask permission to follow up even if they have the abortion.”

Texas has more pregnancy centers than any other state in the country — 198 according to one directory — and most are denominational ministries operating free of charge. Studies have shown that nearly half of those who seek an abortion have had one before, so an open line of communication gives a woman the ability to choose life for a future pregnancy, even if she chooses an abortion now. .

As for immediate needs, most centers are well stocked with supplies such as diapers, strollers and baby gear. But if abortion restrictions are maintained in Texas and continue to expand in other states, DiCaro said the long-term trajectory will require more partnership with local churches. With nearly 400,000 churches in the United States, the 2,700 pregnancy centers need their help in the coming days, he said.

“If you take the Texas law and multiply it by every politically similar state,” DiCaro said, “how they would be overwhelmed. … They can’t do this on their own.

While pregnancy centers are important, he said, the church should first be on the front line to care for vulnerable women in the community.

When the churches intervene, it makes a big difference. When Erika S. found Pregnancy Help 4 U in a Google search two years ago, she was under extreme financial stress and was considering abortion.

“They talked to me, prayed for me, and made me feel like everything was going to be okay,” she said in a phone interview. (She asked CT to use only her last initial for privacy reasons.)

The support pushed Erika to continue with her pregnancy. She made an appointment with the center, and soon a local church offered to pay her medical bills and provide all the necessities needed for the baby’s first months of life.

Now that more women in Texas will be parenting in unexpected ways, such partnerships with the church will be essential.

Before the Heartbeat Act, when women could get an abortion for up to 20 weeks in Texas, about 85% of abortions occurred after the six-week mark. The AP reports that several abortion clinics are turning away patients according to law after heartbeats are detected, which more than halves the daily number of abortion procedures.

In addition to the six-week ban, Texas has other restrictions in place, including a mandatory ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period and a ban on telemedicine for abortion pill prescriptions.

The combination of regulations, along with the Heartbeat Act, halved the number of abortions in September and October 2021.

The lives saved by the law are a victory. Yet pandemic-related lockdowns and struggles compound the stress of unplanned pregnancies.

“The proverbs say, ‘Hope delayed makes the heart sick,'” McGregor said. “Hope has been carried over all year in 2020, so people feel defeated, like it’s all out of their control.”

Thomas, from Pregnancy Help 4 U, agrees. She said her goal was to ensure that women who come to the office under the new law “can feel that they are being taken care of and that we have nothing to gain from their visit”.

She relies on God’s love to inform their conversations with women who want abortions. Client advocates, she said, help every woman find the “peace of mind” to look after her own health first, so she can then advocate for the life of her unborn child. .

“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” said Erika S. “I might have lived with [the abortion] …so hopefully more centers like this will open up across the state.

Other states are aiming for the same outcome as Texas. A Mississippi bill proposed and stalled in 2018 would ban abortion after 15 weeks and could be passed later this year, pending a Supreme Court ruling. If approved, the viability standard that Roe vs. Wade set for abortion restrictions would likely be reversed, changing the game for state-level abortion measures.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in this case—Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization– last year and will probably rule in June.

“States will wait and see what happens when the Supreme Court votes on Dobbs,” DiCaro said. “It will likely have an effect on what other states choose to move forward.”

In the meantime, Texas Pregnancy Centers are ready and waiting for women who need pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, spiritual guidance, physical support, and reassurance that they can choose to give birth to their babies. children even in the most difficult circumstances.


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