Amid a Wave of Violence, A Beacon of Hope for Mothers, Babies
An unplanned pregnancy can be terrifying. But the people at Hope Pregnancy Center in North Philadelphia want women to know they are not alone.
The center offers counseling, information about insurance and doctors, help with housing, and more to its clients. About 20 to 30 women come to the office every week. Many others call. Every pregnant woman leaves with a package of prenatal vitamins and information, said director Latrice Booker.
Clients who come in receive a pregnancy test and meet with a counselor, she said. The center gives them written proof of pregnancy, which can be required for some insurance plans.
“We tell them to talk to the counselor about anything they have questions about,” said Booker. “And that’s normally what happens in the room. They talk about their apprehensions or their need for services, whether it be housing, whether it be the need to know about insurance, or doctors. So whatever that conversation consists of and whatever that counselor begins to feel they need help with, they provide those resources.”
“We are able to point them in the direction of organizations that they need.”
And it is all free to the clients.
However, after the May 2 publication of a leaked copy of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the Dobbs case–which overturned Roe v. Wade and sent abortion rights back to the states—Hope was one of about 60 pro-life organizations around the country that was vandalized. Twice.
Booker downplayed the two incidents.
Overnight on June 10-11, “someone decided to break our windows out and doors out to try to silence us and keep us from doing the work, which it did not. We had boards put up at that point, and we just continued to move forward with our work. Families continued to call, and our volunteers came in to serve. We continued our work. No one was in a place of fear or apprehension. It’s peaceful, and it remains that way.”
Then after the Supreme Court decision, someone wrote graffiti on the boards, she said. “I guess to make another statement.”
Asked whether the group Jane’s Revenge, which has threatened other pregnancy centers, was involved, Booker said she did not know.
“It really has been an anonymous attack, and we haven’t heard anything since,” she said. “We just continue to move forward and continue to pray to remain in a place of prayer, being diligent, being safe.”
Those “on the other side” say, “we want people to have a choice,” said Booker. “They don’t understand that people who come in to be serviced by us, our centers, that’s a choice that they’ve made. They need help. They need insurance information. They need doctors.” The women tell her, “‘I need that free pregnancy test because I can’t afford the test. I need that ultrasound because I don’t have a doctor.’ And we’re here to be of help with that. We’re of help to the families in general. Everything we do is not because our political views. It’s honestly off of Biblical truth.”
Hope is part of the nonprofit People for People under Greater Exodus Baptist Church. Pastor Herbert Lusk II founded both organizations.
“We also are corresponding with clients on a consistent basis via phone or email,” Booker said. They also refer clients to places where they can get services that they do not provide, like testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
For clients whose pregnancy test is not positive, “we want to go a little more in-depth of a conversation,” said Booker. “How can we help you going forward? What can we do to help you have better planning if this isn’t the time for you (to have a baby)?
“Sometimes we have clients that have come to us post-abortion,” Booker said. “They’ve come to seek counseling. We’ll have that initial counseling visit with them; then we try to provide them with ongoing support.” Having an abortion can lead to depression.
“Even if you go back to ‘normal,’ sometimes it hits you so much more time down the line,” she said. “It may hit you when you don’t realize it. It does leave a lasting effect. It’s not always something you can say, ‘Oh, I’m just going back to my normal routine.’ You have to process that experience you’ve been through. No matter what it looks like, it’s an experience. Your body goes through some changes. Your emotions go through some changes. So you know, it’s a lot to process. And with that, you don’t always know how to articulate it or always have the space to articulate it, to share with anyone.”
“A lot of times, people are doing that in secret,” she said. “They’re not telling their families. They’re not telling their close friends. (They’re having an abortion). Then they’re hiding it, and they’re suffering in silence.”
The people at Hope are nonjudgmental.
“All of us have had something that we’ve faltered in,” she said. “So our goal here at Hope, whenever we do have a client that’s been through it or a client that is pregnant now but been through it in the past, we’re not here to condemn you, although it is a sin. We’re here to love you. If you’ve ever made that choice, we’re not going to look at you any differently. We’re here to love on you.”
“We’re here for you as a person, and we want to see you at your healthy place,” she said. “At the place that you can feel that you’re thriving…every person who is a counselor, every person who is a volunteer understands…We want people to know we love you. Period. We’re not going to make you feel less than if you walk in this center.”
Marlene Downing, Pennsylvania deputy director for Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life advocacy group, said, “Fear is a mind-killer. The initial reaction to an unplanned pregnancy is debilitating fear. Pregnancy Centers take the time to speak to the fear and offer options and solutions. The care that takes place in those four walls will not be found in a ‘run-of-the-mill office visit.’ It is what’s needed in today’s society. It is an absolute love for the mom and the baby that does not end once the baby is born. It doesn’t end if a woman chooses termination. Pregnancy Centers encourage life, but they are not a place of judgment. You’ll find safety there.”
Hope’s clients come from the Delaware Valley and neighboring New Jersey, said Booker. There are six counselors, and sometimes Booker will counsel clients, too. A doctor supervises the center but does not see patients.
If clients don’t want to keep their baby, “we do have resources for adoption agencies,” she said. “We hook them up with private agencies that will walk alongside them like we do…They literally take their hand and walk with them, answer questions that they have, encourage them, let them know that they’re supported.”
Hope Pregnancy Center will have its annual banquet/fundraiser on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Drexelbrook Event Center. Conservative commentator and former Senate and congressional candidate Kathy Barnette will speak.
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