WASHINGTON (BP) – Pregnancy resource centers continue to carry on the vital, pro-life work of serving vulnerable women and unborn children in the face of ongoing, adversarial campaigns by abortion rights advocates and the growing effort to regulate their work by state and local governments.
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday will arrive Jan. 21 at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court will be preparing to consider a case that might determine the future of the pro-life pregnancy center movement in America. Abortion rights organizations will be hoping for a sweeping victory from the high court even as they maintain their attacks on what they call “fake clinics.”
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of volunteers will continue to help at pregnancy resource centers that provide a variety of services to pregnant women. These centers that have sprung up throughout the country since the justices legalized abortion in 1973 are crucial to the pro-life cause, movement leaders say.
The centers “embody the very best of the pro-life movement,” Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “Every day, thousands of pro-life counselors, doctors and advocates give real help to vulnerable women and families, many of whom have nowhere else to go.
“Treating human life with dignity matters just as much for these women as it does for their unborn children,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Pregnancy care centers powerfully demonstrate this whole-life compassion that honors the image of God in all.”
Hundreds of pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S., like this one in Kissimmee, Fla., receive financial and volunteer help from Southern Baptist churches. This one, the Osceola Pregnancy Center in Kissimmee, Fla., donates baby clothes to expectant mothers.
Moore said he is “incredibly thankful for the work these centers do, and for the hope and leadership they offer the entire pro-life community.”
Pro-life lawyer Anne O’Connor told BP the centers “are the arms of the pro-life movement, providing a safe haven where abortion-vulnerable women can work through their options without any pressure.”
“Through pro-life pregnancy centers, we can empower vulnerable women who have nowhere else to turn with the hope and support they need to choose life for their unborn children,” said O’Connor, vice president for legal affairs of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).
Many of the pro-life centers are staffed by physicians and nurses and provide ultrasounds that demonstrate the humanity of the unborn child. The centers’ free services also can include medical consultations, baby clothing and diapers, maternity housing, job training, mentoring programs, and prenatal and parenting classes.
NIFLA – a nationwide network of more than 1,400 pro-life pregnancy centers – is at the center of the pivotal case that the Supreme Court is expected to consider during the early months of 2018. The justices have agreed to rule on the challenge by NIFLA and two pro-life pregnancy centers to a 2015 California law that requires such centers to notify their clients of the availability of abortion services elsewhere.
The Reproductive FACT Act requires licensed pregnancy centers to post a notice for clients that says, “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].”
The law also mandates each unlicensed center provide notice of its lack of state licensure as a medical facility and lack of a licensed medical provider who directly supervises services.
Under the law, a penalty for a first-time offense is $500, while each subsequent violation can result in a $1,000 fine.