I can still see the tiny pink socks. And boxes and boxes of diapers. Most of all, I remember the warmth and cheeriness of the staff as I toured the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Help Center in downtown Buffalo, New York. Their love and dedication shone brightly through every word and smile. How tragic that their service to women, children, and families is at great risk this February, when the Supreme Court hears NIFLA v. Becerra--a case that has nationwide ramifications.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against California's so-called "Reproductive Fact Act." The California law forces medically-licensed pregnancy support centers, in direct contradiction of their mission and beliefs, to provide information to clients about publicly funded abortion. A national pregnancy resource center advocacy group, National Institute of Family Life Advocates (NIFLA), is challenging the law, arguing that it violates the centers' rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
Such unjust laws undermine the ability of the Church and its people to provide pastoral care-the spiritual and material help that the U.S. bishops call "a primary way that the Church expresses its love for all God's children" (USCCB Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, 2001). The U.S. bishops view pregnancy support services as an essential part of reaching out to women who are vulnerable to abortion. Many women feel pressured to abort. A pregnancy help center may be a woman's sole means of emotional, material, or financial support. Many centers provide medical services, helping women who would otherwise find it difficult or impossible to obtain high-quality medical care for themselves and their unborn children.
Laws like the California "Fact Act" place a significant burden on those who serve, and threaten the welfare of the thousands of women, children, and families who benefit from pregnancy support and medical care.
There are 3,042 stationary or mobile pregnancy help centers throughout the country. Perhaps you, or someone you know, are among the compassionate people who serve at one of them. You may know someone who's benefited from such help. According to research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), 1.9 million women received pregnancy support or education from pregnancy help centers in 2011. That same year, 230,000 ultrasounds were provided at little or no cost to women, supported by private funding.
How tragic if this unjust, intolerant, and anti-American law stands! In a culture that often gives negative messages regarding parenthood, it is important that those who offer support and medical care to pregnant women retain the right to care for and celebrate the gift of new life.
Spread the word about the plight of pregnancy care centers. Such attacks on the selfless work of caring people are not new, nor will they dwindle. Pray for an end to attacks on the freedom of pregnancy care centers to serve women and their children.
Mary McClusky writes on ethical issues for USCCB.