Sometimes it’s a crisis that makes life clearer—that’s what Parkgate Pregnancy Clinic in Tupelo, Mississippi is discovering as they minister to women with an unplanned pregnancy during the coronavirus crisis.
“There’s been a lot of prayer and discussion on what is the right thing to do,” Parkgate’s Executive Director Jima Alexander said. “We have this very serious position of ministering to women who find themselves in crisis with an unplanned pregnancy and we want to support them in every way possible. At the same time, our city, in particular, has guidelines on who can be open and who cannot be open.”
Before any decisions were made, Jima discussed the situation with Parkgate’s board and their medical director, OB/GYN Dr. Ronald Young. After all, they must do everything they can to protect both their clients and staff members.
“Dr. Young is very, very involved in our operations and he made the decision to actually close our location based upon information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mississippi State Department of Health and the local hospital officials,” Alexander said.
But they didn’t want to stop ministry, so they came up with quite an ingenious system.
“We developed a plan about how we could continue to get services to women who are really needing some help,” Alexander explained. “Early on, I met with our client advocate director and we put a plan together on how we could make our clients aware that they could continue to contact us over the phone. We put protocols into place detailing how those calls should be conducted.
“If a client is parent minded and they were wanting to come to us for a free ultrasound, we refer them to a private physician. But if the person who calls is abortion minded or abortion vulnerable, we really do some in-depth counseling with them on the phone and based upon several factors, one how far along they are in the pregnancy, we then schedule the client for the ultrasound. Our medical director has opened up his personal medical office as the location where those ultrasounds will take place. Our client advocate director is currently working out of his office, she meets the client outside and does all of the assessment before they are brought into the clinic (temperature, COVID-19 exposure, etc.). There’s counseling during the ultrasound and follow-up conversations over the phone.”
It’s been an incredible blessing for Parkgate. While it’s not the ideal situation, obviously they want to try and meet one-on-one to minister to the women and their families as much as possible, it’s a responsible decision to limit coronavirus exposure to those who are pregnant.
“It’s actually been a very good setup and good plan,” Alexander said. “One thing that’s been really interesting to me right now is that we have been told that clients might be more at risk of aborting because they’re afraid of COVID-19, but we’ve actually seen something a bit different. The ones who were indicating initially that they were abortion minded, they’ve demonstrated more of an awareness of the value of life. It’s totally different than what we had thought. We have only one client who is still undecided, everyone else that our client advocate has counseled has chosen life.”
Mississippi’s Governor Tate Reeves recently announced his desire that abortion be considered an “elective” and “non-essential” medical procedure. Though it’s unclear if that effort will stick or not. But that won’t affect Parkgate much. The state’s only abortion clinic is four hours away, but there are at least three abortion clinics in Memphis, Tennessee, which is about 90 minutes up the road from Tupelo. At this point, there is not an abortion ban in that state nor have any of the Planned Parenthoods closed.
Surprisingly, the percentage of women seeking abortion hasn’t changed during the crisis. But Parkgate and other pregnancy resource centers still need support and, especially, prayer.
When asked if Parkgate had any prayer requests, Jima mentioned a couple things: “Pray that anyone who is concerned about being pregnant or wondering if they’re pregnant, that they would call our helpline. That they would get to us through social media, word-of-mouth or whatever way possible. We know that people are being impacted economically so we’re just praying that the Lord will allow finances to come in to help us continue what we are doing. Pray for our staff, that they would be encouraged. We’ve been doing Zoom meetings encouraging one another to lift each other up.”
There is a lot of hope that this pandemic will be over quickly, but there is no guarantee. Though quarantine measures may result in fewer women finding themselves pregnant unexpectedly, pregnancy resource centers like Parkgate will remain steadfast in their support of women and their families.