The coronavirus pandemic has caused the closure of schools, churches and a variety of businesses. But one area of outreach that’s trying to remain open is pregnancy resource centers (PRC), ministries that reach out to abortion minded women and encourage them to choose life. One such center that has remained open is Choices Pregnancy Services in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“It was a difficult decision,” said Keri Muir, the Executive Director of Choices Pregnancy Services. “Our board met and discussed all the pros and cons. One thing our center has always had a laser focus on is reaching abortion vulnerable women. We’re here in Pittsburgh; Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities remain open. I felt very strongly that we needed to remain open to reach those women that are going to feel pressure on top of pressure to have an abortion. If they were scared before, they’re even more fearful now.”
An unplanned pregnancy can often be an emotional roller coaster. There are questions about finances, relationships, school, family, the future and a variety of other genuine and often overwhelming concerns. Coronavirus adds another layer of fear since many people have lost their jobs and it’s unclear what the country will look like in a week let alone nine months.
PRCs, like Choices, try to minister and help women see that there are other options besides abortion. But it isn’t business as usual.
“We felt confident that we could remain open,” Keri said. “We are open with a lot of restrictions. We screen everyone on the phone before they come in. We’re only seeing one patient at a time in the facility in order to limit the traffic that goes through. We’ve asked that they not bring children with them to their appointments. That they don’t bring friends or if the friends come, they have to stay outside in the car. The only exception we make is for the father of the baby, and we screen him as well. It’s the same process with our STD testing.”
That’s a difficult and challenging decision to make. Most pregnancy resource centers want to help support the support system that any client has to make sure the women/couples feel encouraged and ready to either become parent/s or make an adoption decision.
“We’re so used to being accommodating with everybody and this is really hard to feel like we’re not,” Keri said. “But we’re doing it for the protection of the patients that are coming in and also our staff.”
In addition to helping new clients, they’re reaching out to some of their former clients as well to see if they need any kind of help.
“We’re able to contact people we’ve seen in the past and be able to check on them and see if they need anything,” Keri said. “They don’t even have to come into the center, we’ll meet them at the door or slip things outside the door to avoid the screening process. It’s caused community unity with other organizations, even another pregnancy center that are no longer doing ultrasounds but asked if we could see people that they had scheduled. We were able to help them out.”
In one particular instance, a former client reached out to them asking for diapers. The couple, who have a child, both had lost their jobs and knew that they could reach out to Choices for help and spiritual support. The young man even asked if someone could pray for them like their mentor would.
It’s a powerful reminder that PRCs don’t just minister to individuals and couples one time. There’s a relationship that develops. This couple knew that even though it had been a while, Choices was an organization they could trust that would offer any assistance that it could.
In addition to providing pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and STD testing, Choices also provides prenatal vitamins, earn-as-you-learn sessions (a way to earn baby materials by taking parenting classes), a year’s supply of diapers and post-abortion recovery. Choices has three locations and mobile units to help meet the needs of the entire community, though the mobile units are not operating right now given the current environment.
But hopefully, Choices, as well as other PRCs, can be back up and operating normally soon. Until then, pray for all that Keri and her team are doing to meet the needs of their community. And pray for the Choices staff members as they navigate this crisis with wisdom and discernment.