Local churches launch pro life pregnancy support center
(Caledonian Record) The setting is symbolic.
Located in a former funeral home, Futures Pregnancy Care offers a pro-life approach to assisting mothers-to-be.
Backed by local churches, Futures is an independent non-profit that aims to help women see unexpected pregnancies through to birth. The center does not offer abortion referrals or counseling.
It is the first such pregnancy support center in the Northeast Kingdom.
“The closest center is probably in Barre, so we’ll be serving people from that line all the way to the Canadian border,” said executive director Carmen Menard, co-pastor at the New Beginnings Christian Church in St. Johnsbury.
Futures opened its doors on Jan. 15 and is prepared to welcome all comers regardless of faith, creed or belief.
Staff will work with clients to verify pregnancy, present options, and connect at-risk parents with financial, material or adoption resources as requested.
It occupies a unique place in the Northeast Kingdom cultural landscape. Not strictly a faith-based organization, it nevertheless embraces a pro-life message.
“There are obviously other options out there, Planned Parenthood and so forth, but we wanted to see life-affirming options, and a place where women with unexpected pregnancies and their partners could come and get care, compassion, support, love and education about those options in a non-judgmental atmosphere,” said board chairman Joel Battaglia, pastor for Lyndon Bible Church.
And the location? Well that’s just kind of poetic, Battaglia said. “We like to think of it from death to life. We’re offering life now.”
Three years in the making, Futures arose out of discussions between local churchgoers from over a half dozen congregations.
Those talks led to action. Eventually paperwork was filed, a board of directors was formed, and fundraising commenced.
Key contributors include the Knights of Columbus, who gave money for a new ultrasound machine, and Heartbeat International, the world’s largest network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers, which awarded a $30,000 startup grant.
The center is staffed by two full-timers (Menard and client advocate Deanna Stephens) and a crew of volunteers: A medical director (Dr. Simon Solano), ultrasound technician (Charla Nadeau) and 15 client advocates.
Menard was called upon to serve as executive director because of her business experience. She is a former branch manager for Passumpsic Savings Bank who recently retired after a 34-year banking career. She felt compelled to accept because of her experience as a mother.
“This is really not about religion,” she said. “It’s about keeping and supporting women in crisis. That’s our main goal.”
Futures is not intended to replace medical care and is strictly advisory in nature.
Initially, clients will go through a quick intake process (to verify identity), sit down with staff to discuss their case, and be offered a self-administered pregnancy test (as needed).
Next, they can schedule a second appointment for an ultrasound scan, administered by a trained tech. (“Women who see the ultrasound are more apt to keep the baby,” Battaglia said)
Those who choose to continue their pregnancy will be offered a variety of support services that include peer counseling and connections to financial and material assistance, local obstetricians and, if desired, adoption agencies such as the Elizabeth Lund Home in Burlington and Bethany Christian Services in Barre.
“Regardless if they have a faith background or not, we’re here to support them through the whole process, because many of these girls are going to think they’re life has ended, and that’s not really the case. They have a whole future ahead of them,” Menard said.
Tweet This: “Regardless if they have a faith background or not, we’re here to support them through the whole process"
Tweet This: "Many of these girls are going to think they’re life has ended, and that’s not really the case. They have a whole future ahead of them”
Added Battaglia, “That’s why we called it Futures. A young woman who might be in crisis might find out she’s pregnant. She might be in high school or college. She might think ‘Oh, this is going to ruin my life or my future.’ We want them to know there is a future, there is hope, there is support. And we want to be part of that.”
Tweet This: “We want them (young women facing unplanned pregnancy) to know there is a future, there is hope, there is support..”
Futures was formed against a backdrop of public debate over abortion, with Republican-controlled states moving to restrict abortion access and Democratic-run states preserving existing rights.
Meanwhile the Center for Disease Control has reported that the number of U.S. abortions has decreased 25 percent from 2006 to 20015, from 842,855 to 638,169.
Battaglia and Menard understand there is a cultural divide. However, they compare their work to another organization rooted in religion, Alcoholics Anonymous.
“[AA] saw a societal need and realized faith-based people had something to offer. [Futures] is a similar thing for a different era,” Battaglia said. “When we look at the need that’s out there, it’s wide. And you don’t need to believe in anything to seek us out, you just need to be looking for support and help.”
Editor's note: This article was published at the Caledonian Record and is reprinted with permission.