Four women offered their personal experience helping other women facing unplanned pregnancy at a major pro-life event this past weekend, preparing young people with crucial information for helping women and girls in need.
The panel discussion, “You Just Found Out She’s Pregnant and in Crisis – What Do You Need to Know?” was part of Students for Life of America’s Pro-Life Summit. Some 3,300 pro-life supporters attended the summit on Saturday, January 25, the day following the March for Life.
Nafisa Kennedy, Option Line Director for Heartbeat International, Petra Wallenmeyer and Lyndsy Flanagan, Life Affirming Specialists with Option Line, and Sara Littlefield, Life Launch Grant Program Specialist for Heartbeat, comprised the panel.
The women gave frank and thorough advice to packed conference room, noting that taking care to show love immediately when ministering to those in unplanned pregnancy is key.
When first facing an unexpected pregnancy, women may only process limited information, making the initial response to them very important.
Given this, the panel was asked what one piece of advice to give for an initial response when encountering an abortion-minded woman.
“Slow down,” Littlefield said, because there are so many things rushing through their mind that a woman may feel rushed to make a decision.
There’s a way to the choice that she’s hoping to make, she said, when taking baby steps.
Women are looking at the short-term and can’t see the big picture, Flanagan said, in particular regard to finances.
It’s always important when talking to women to remind them that, “You are feeling the sting of this crisis moment,” she said, “And yes, it’s going to be hard, and yes, there are going to be challenges. And we are here to walk through those, but don’t get so sucked into your circumstances right now where you are.”
Circumstances can change dramatically, she said.
“There is hope on the other side,” said Flanagan, “if you just take a step back.”
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If someone comes to you and they haven’t told anyone else, Wallenmeyer said, that means they’re placing their trust in you.
“If she is coming to you and telling her story to you, she is already considering you someone safe, and someone that she can trust,” said Wallenmeyer, “and one of the things that you can tell her if she comes to you with that information is, okay, I will be there with you.”
Women can tell whoever else they want to in their own time, she said, but assure them they don’t have to make decisions alone now that’s they’ve confided in you.
“I’m going to be there for you, I’m going to support you,” goes a long way in easing some of that anxiety,” she said.
The panel was asked what to say to the friend who might have someone close come to them that tell them they are pregnant
“You should be listening more and talking less,” Littlefield said. “In the listening you are going to uncover what her initial anxieties are.”
The listening is one thing, she said, and then, “providing that compassionate heart.”
Another thought for the friend of a woman experiencing unplanned pregnancy, Flanagan said, is “to use positive language around this life.”
When women choose life it’s important to celebrate the life, she said.
“Maybe it’s not the best of circumstances, maybe she can’t handle it by herself,” said Flanagan, “but that’s not going to be our focus. We’re going to use positive language. You’re going to affirm them and show them that they can do it.”
Pay attention and use celebratory language, she added.
Kennedy spoke about her own experience with an unplanned pregnancy, and stressed that women will hear your tone more than they hear what you say.
“So, pay attention to that, if you need to take a deep breath before you answer,” she said, “but do your best not to answer in a negative or disappointed tone. That can make all the difference.”
Speak positively about a pregnancy, said Kennedy, because even if she’s not yet ready for it, this gives a woman permission to experience joy at being a mother.
Wallenmeyer said if a woman comes to you regarding a possible unplanned pregnancy, offer her practical support.
“And I think that needs to start with establishing trust,” she said.
Even being good at reading callers to the helpline, Wallenmeyer emphasized the importance of not making assumptions about people or situations, because it might be a friend who helps a woman take that first practical step of calling for help.
Something a friend may do for a woman or girl facing unplanned pregnancy would be make the call to a helpline, offer them ride somewhere, or even simply search the internet for pregnancy help resources.
You don’t have to have all the answers, Flanagan told the audience, no one does.
“But it’s really important to know where those answers are,” she said, encouraging those in attendance to check out the available resources in their area.
The panel spoke about Option Line and its many offerings.
If someone calls Option Line, Wallenmeyer said, the goal is to get them connected to a local pregnancy center.
“These are centers that offer free and confidential during, and usually after pregnancy as well. And they are all life-affirming centers.”
Wallenmeyer discussed the many services offered by pregnancy help centers, including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STD testing, parenting, birthing and nursing classes, as well as men’s programs.
Ultrasounds are instrumental in women choosing life, she explained.
“And they (women) are going to get factual information on abortion,” Wallenmeyer.
The centers will never refer for abortion, she said.
“But they will get factual information on, What is an abortion? and What does it do?” she said. “And we’re hoping that by peeling back that curtain and not using euphemisms concerning abortion, that when they have that factual information about it, coupled with the fact that they know they have support, from the friend, from the center, that again, they’ll make that decision for life.”
Post-abortion support is also part of the many services provided by pregnancy help centers.
Littlefield spoke about Abortion Pill Reversal specifics, and how Option Line consultants can refer women who have taken the abortion pill and experience regret to a provider who will help them with administering the APR protocol.
“This is a key piece of information that you have available to share with your communities,” said Littlefield.
With chemical abortion on the rise, it’s important to be ready with the information, she said.
Littlefield also discussed post-abortion support, sharing a personal anecdote about a friend who confided in her about her abortion.
The friend was extremely nervous Littlefield recalled, and she could tell something was wrong.
“I told her, “Nothing you say is going to make me love you less,” said Littlefield, “And she just crumbled.
“I didn’t know what to do for her; what words do you say in that moment?” she said. “But I could muster a prayer – because we both believed that she could be forgiven. And I could muster a, “Let’s see who can help.”
“If you’re taking anything away with you today, make sure you’re taking that (Option Line) number with you,” Littlefield said. “Because, you don’t have to have all the answers, but if you have that support, that love, you’re that safe place, and you have that resource in your tool-belt, you’re going to help them through so much.”
The panel gave a Q&A before then remaining to speak with individuals with questions.
Editor’s note: Heartbeat International, which manages Pregnancy Help News, also manages the Abortion Pill Rescue Network. Assistance and support through Option Line is available 24/7, 365 days a year at 800-712-4357, by texting “HELPLINE” to 313131, and by visiting OptionLine.org.