Like a Prayer: God & Abortion at the Pregnancy Support Center | Community Notebook | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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Like a Prayer: God & Abortion at the Pregnancy Support Center


Last Updated: 06/29/2013 11:49 am

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La Rose, who looks both comforting and severe at the same time, has been married and living in Saugerties for 39 years. She left a full-time job at IBM to become a homemaker for 17 of those years, and has two grown sons. While working as administrative assistant to the president of a bank in Rhinebeck, she continued to teach scripture to women in her church. Her father, she said with pride, was a machinist who worked on the A-117 stealth fighter, a framed poster of which La Rose said graces her living room wall. The A-117 is a virtually indestructible weapon of mass annihilation that enables 20 different targets to be simultaneously acquired, attacked and destroyed within 22 feet of accuracy. It is impervious to weather, temperatures, and poor visibility.

"I love the stealth," La Rose said, getting flushed. "It is so gorgeous!"

The Saugerties center is tucked behind Frank's Hunting Lodge down a narrow alleyway just off Partition Street. The New Paltz office sits in the low-key Cherry Hill shopping plaza among other non-descript storefronts. No crosses or Bibles mark the self-described ministries inside. According to LaRose, they offer free and confidential pregnancy tests, as well as abortion and post-abortion peer counseling, support groups, free maternity and baby clothes, diapers and formula, childbirth and parenting classes, and adoption information. "Peer" counselors (meaning they are not professionals) educate those seeking information about the "realities of abortion," La Rose said.

La Rose emphasized that she and her 15 volunteers don't push their beliefs on the center's clients, and Chronogram spoke to two young women who visited the center and confirmed there was no mention of religion. But the center's staff also does not hide the fact that they consider themselves a ministry in their literature. The center's scriptural foundation is made clear in its mission statement to "uphold the value of human life by befriending, educating, comforting, and supporting those with pregnancy-related needs," the statement reads. "The center offers God's love by proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and His plan for sexuality, marriage, and the family to the community."

La Rose admits, "We do hold a very strong scriptural view when it comes to abortion and life, but I want teens and college students to know that they can come here and receive the love and care they need. We're not here to make the decisions for them. We don't argue. We just put the information out there. There are a lot of organizations out there that don't provide all the details of abortion. If a girl comes in and doesn't know what an abortion is, we show her what it is. Many believe the fetus is a piece of tissue or a blob of blood. They don't realize it's a baby. We provide information on all the choices a young woman has, including the emotional and physical risks of abortion."

Whether the fetus can be defined in its early stages as a baby, and what constitutes the physical and emotional risks of abortion is hotly debated between pro-life and pro-choice groups. Abortion "facts" put out by pro-life organizations like CareNet, describe the abortion procedure as "forcing open the cervix," and refer to a "baby", while pro-choice organizations typically describe it as a "dilation of the cervix" and "contents of the uterus." They also disagree on the physical and emotional risks of pregnancy, each side accusing the other of lying to women as a means to propagate their own beliefs.

The Pregnancy Support Center and 749 others like it across the US and Canada are affiliates of a national non-profit pro-life organization called CareNet, which was founded 20 years ago by Harold "O.J." Brown, also co-founder of the Christian Action Council, another leading evangelical pro-life group. In addition to training, marketing, and resources, the centers rely on CareNet for medical and statistical information on pregnancy and abortion, La Rose said. Billboards advocating pro-life values, like many throughout Ulster County, are funded in part by organizations like CareNet, which also operates a 24-hour call center that connects women to the pregnancy centers and distributes over one million bulletin inserts each year to promote their work. In return, the local centers pay CareNet an annual fee.

Other pro-life organizations, such as the New York State Right to Life Organization and Heartbeat International, also provide information on pregnancy and abortion for the pregnancy centers, La Rose said. One video shown to clients by PSC shows the growing fetus from four to 12 weeks old through a camera inserted into the womb. The narrator, pro-life obstetrician Camilla Hersh, claims that the fetus shows brain activity in response to pain between the ninth and tenth week of pregnancy.

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