“I think (pregnancy) centers have the opportunity to not only support life, but to support men and women to find great hope for life and to find abundant life. I believe God uses pregnancy centers across the world to do just that,” Lola French, executive director of the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS), said.
French has spent more than 25 years serving in the trenches of Canada’s pregnancy help community. She steps down as CAPSS’ CEO at the end of April.
“I think pregnancy centers are very unique; they do marvelous work,” French said. “The reason I even took the position… was because after working at a pregnancy center and seeing the difference it makes in people’s lives, I just felt like we needed to have this everywhere.”
French was part of the team that founded CAPSS in 1997, and has overseen the network’s growth to 70 locations throughout Canada, all of which enjoy affiliation benefits with both Heartbeat International and Care Net, the two largest pregnancy help affiliation networks worldwide.
A registered nurse, French founded and ran a center in Alberta for 14 years prior to helping establish CAPSS. She and other Canadian pregnancy center directors had attended conferences run by various groups in the U.S., and felt drawn to create a specifically Canadian network to advance their work together.
“There would be lots of times we’d say, ‘This is so American, we need some Canadian stuff… statistics, to talk about provinces,’” French said.
So CAPSS was born, with a mission “to assist the local pregnancy centers (in Canada) and to help develop new ones,” as French puts it, with the work focusing on leadership development, operational standards, volunteer and staff training, and spiritual encouragement.
In a nation where over three babies are aborted for every 10 who are born, the need for a strong pregnancy help community is evident. CAPSS has emerged over the years as national life-affirming leader for training and equipping local centers.
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Yet, the comparative silence about abortion has acted as a hindrance to pregnancy centers throughout Canada.
“A lot of people really understand the local work and want to support their local center, but it really takes a visionary to see the bigger picture of training and developing more leaders and establishing more centers across Canada,” French said. “Our political culture is a challenge. There’s a much stronger pro-life, pro-choice line drawn in U.S. politics—ours is just avoided, not discussed. All of that plays into a lack of financial support.”
With French stepping down as CAPSS’s executive at the beginning of May, Dr. Laura Lewis has been tabbed as her successor. A member of CAPSS’ board of directors, Lewis is a family practitioner who is currently serving as managing director for Christine’s Place in Huntsville, Ontario.
Also a board member of Canadian Physicians for Life, Dr. Lewis brings in a strong resume that includes over 20 years’ experience as a physician to her new post.
“Fundraising will be a No. 1 priority, while we continue to promote and support education and services to pregnancy centers to expand and enhance the mission,” French said. “My greatest joy is seeing leaders develop in ministry and seeing new centers rise up to meet the needs of their community.”
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Although she is uncertain at this point what the next chapter of her life will look like, French is certain God will continue to lead her to another area of great need.
“I’m going to take a little break, catch my breath,” she said. “I don’t exactly know what my next assignment is. However, I’ll be ready to again continue doing some meaningful work for the Kingdom in a few months.”