For pregnant women facing poverty, pro-life groups offer resources for success

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New York City, N.Y., Jul 14, 2019 / 03:26 am (CNA).- Poor women are the most likely population to obtain an abortion.

While it may seem logical that a woman who is already struggling financially is one of the most likely candidates for an abortion, the trend is relatively recent, reports the New York Times.

According to a July 9 article, data from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, shows that 50% of women who obtained an abortion in 2014 were considered low-income, compared to 1994, when only one-fourth of women who got an abortion that year were living in poverty.

The reasons for this are many, according to the New York Times. More people overall live at or below the poverty line now than did 25 years ago. There are many financial resources available for poor women who are seeking abortions, and hotlines to help them access these resources.

The article ended with the story of a poor woman who, finding herself unexpectedly pregnant, decided to get an abortion in order to get through college.

But there are also abundant resources available for poor, pregnant women who want to carry their pregnancies to term and parent their children, and they should be included in stories such as these, pro-life advocates told CNA.

“The New York Times is so disingenuous to pretend that there are no services for women, no help for women, no hope for women, and basically their message is – you might as well have an abortion,” Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Students for Life of America (SFLA), told CNA.

“It’s a defeatist message and it’s an anti-feminist message, because we should be about empowering women. We should be about protecting their rights against pregnancy discrimination. We should be about making sure that if you want an education, you can get one,” she added. “So I find it fascinating that these so-called champions of women aren’t willing to champion pregnant women.”

SFLA is a pro-life group that works specifically with pregnant and parenting students on campus to ensure that their rights are protected and that they have access to the resources they need.

“It’s really part of the work we’re doing every day, letting women know that there is help for them, there is support for them, and that defeatist messages from the abortion industry – that’s a marketing pitch, but that’s not the truth,” Hamrick said.

One of the main things that SFLA’s “Pregnant on Campus” initiative does is work with schools to ensure that the rights of pregnant women are protected, and that the campus is creating a welcoming environment for them.

For example, Hamrick said, SFLA works with students to ensure that their Title IX protections aren’t violated. Title IX protects pregnant students from being discriminated against based on accommodations needed for their pregnancies, making it illegal to take away scholarships, housing or placement in schools for pregnant students.

Hamrick recalled one case in which a pregnant woman missed finals because she was giving birth, and her school threatened to pull her financial aid and her place at the school.

“So SFLA got involved, we got her financial package reinstated, and frankly communicated with the school that you can’t do that. That is discrimination against women,” she said. The student was allowed to continue at the school, and her financial aid was reinstated.

Besides working to fight pregnancy discrimination, the group also works with schools to create welcoming environments for pregnant and parenting students by adding things such as short-term handicapped parking, nursing stations, and access to daycare programs on campuses.

Hamrick sent CNA an internal document used by SFLA of a list of more than 20 resources available to pregnant women in need, which includes resources such as counseling, food stamps, shelter, church groups, abortion pill reversals, adoption programs and more.

When it comes to scholarships, Hamrick said they work locally with women to determine what they are eligible for in their region and from their school. The website scholarshipsforwomen.com also lists more than 19 scholarships and grants available to pregnant women of various qualifications.

Marisol Health, a service of Catholic Charities in Denver, is another pro-life service that exists to help pregnant women in need.

In 2017, Marisol Health provided care to 821 clients, 70% of whom had incomes under $30,000; 45% had no income or incomes less than $15,000 a year. Of patients that year, 45 percent had Medicaid and 32 percent were uninsured.

“You are unique, capable and strong. You deserve to be listened to and cared for in a way that’s confidential and empowering,” Marisol’s website states on its homepage.

Senite Sahlezghi, the program director of Marisol Health in Lafayette, Colorado, told CNA that they seek to serve the whole person in their services.

“The whole person… is not only a physical body, but we all have a multilayered context to our lives as well and so I think it’s just been really beautiful that Marisol Health is this comprehensive OB/GYN clinic with wraparound supportive services to meet the urgent and ongoing needs of women and families,” Sahlezghi said.

Sahlezghi said the first thing Marisol does when a woman in need seeks their help is to listen to them fully.

“A lot of our families and women that come to us are in crisis situations,” she said, “which means that they’re coming through our doors with a lot of circumstances that are overwhelming to them.”

The first step is to welcome these women and families in, offer them a cup of tea or a glass of water, and listen to their story and how they are doing, in order to better understand what help they most need, Sahlezghi said.

Through a partnership with Bella Natural Women’s Care, Marisol is able to offer women free pregnancy testing, free ultrasounds, STD testing and treatment, counseling, fertility awareness education, and other OB/GYN services.

But beyond services, they also provide women with accompaniment throughout their pregnancy and afterward, Sahlezghi said.

“When you’re in an unexpected pregnancy or crisis situation, it is unbelievable how profound the feeling of loneliness can be and what decisions and consequences come from it,” she said. “Our main goal is to really be their village and to let them know that they’re not alone.”

Besides OB/GYN services, Marisol Health is able to connect women with a variety of services, including housing, food and financial assistance through Catholic Charities. Marisol Homes provides housing for both pregnant women and homeless women with children. Through a partnership with Gabriel services, Marisol also connects women with parenting classes, education classes and other support.

Marisol also offers support groups for postpartum women, mentoring programs for fathers, and counseling and support for post-abortive women. They provide these services to women in need without discrimination, including to women who are undocumented and may have difficulty finding care elsewhere, Sahlezghi added.

“That doesn’t even begin to describe the scope of the continuum of care that Catholic Charities offers,” Sahlezghi added. “Mother Theresa said, ‘Find them, love them,’ and I think that the continuum of care really allows us to try and strive after that idiom well.”

Although it has only been open for three years, Marisol Health has already helped more than 1,330 women through unexpected pregnancies.

“We want to make sure that women know that this is available to them and that their life isn’t over because they’re pregnant,” Sahlezghi said.

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