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THREADBARE SOCIAL SERVICES
But La Rose said she hears many success stories at PSC. In May, her staff received a letter in from a woman whose younger sister was pregnant and went to PSC for counseling.
"At her [PSC] appointment," the handwritten letter reads, "[my sister] spoke with a counselor who allowed her to speak freely about all that was on her mind. The support center gave her information about medical options available to her and her baby. They shared other attainable agencies of assistance, as well as essential needs that were available to her right at their premises. She was encouraged to continue to follow her plans of going to college to become a nurse. She left the Pregnancy Support Center with a multitude of beneficial pamphlets and magazines full of beneficial insight for a mother-to-be."
While some of PSC's programs - including abstinence education and the post-abortion group - petered out over the past two years due to staff changes and lagging funds, La Rose chalks it up simply to the nature of volunteer-run organizations. Fueled by letters like these, she is only looking forward now, she said. Once she has secured greater funding streams for PSC, her plans include re-establishing these programs and creating a higher profile for the centers on local radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and even television.
La Rose said everyone she has approached in the community has welcomed her. Even those who disagree with the center's ideology are acutely aware of the needs they serve in a community where social services are increasingly threadbare. For example, she met with the Ulster County YWCA director of Youth and Family Services, Nan Hermus, to advise her of the Pregnancy Support Center's services. The YWCA, a United Way agency, provides case management and services for pregnant and parenting teens, including a home visiting program and a parenting curriculum designed to help young moms finish school. Although five years ago Saugerties had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the county, Hermus said, the programs concentrate on the zip codes with the most consistently high rates in the county: Kingston, Rosendale, and Ellenville. Neither the YWCA or Planned Parenthood have clinics in Saugerties where, according to the Ulster County Department of Health, teen pregnancy rates have been among the highest.
"The YWCA takes a pro-choice stand," Hermus said, "but the reality is that 99.9 percent of these girls [in Saugerties] choose to continue the pregnancy. They don't consider adoption or abortion because they feel it's their responsibility to have it. Abortion is considered not a good thing to do. But our role is to support them with whatever they want to do."
Even some community medical resources, like family clinics, which for legal purposes are politically neutral, have established policies that reflect the personal values of their staff. Dr. Marie Delaparte of the Saugerties Wellness Center, which serves most of the Saugerties High School students, said her staff provides its patients with all options, but encourages abstinence. The Wellness Center does not provide the now-legal Mifeprex, formerly known as RU 486 and informally known as "the abortion pill." The majority of the staff, headed by Dr. Ravi Ramiswami, doesn't feel comfortable with providing it, Delaparte said.
The girls who are showing up pregnant are younger now than they used to be, as young as 13 years old, Delaparte said. However, she added that teen pregnancy seems to have decreased over the past three years due to more prevention efforts. Nine out of ten teens they see decide to go through with their pregnancies. "Then their mothers raise the babies," she said.
Regardless of what her critics might think, La Rose feels she and her growing base of supporters are empowering these girls. "One of our goals is to help these clients understand that their 'crisis' pregnancy does not necessarily mean they are without hope or options," La Rose said. "We are here to help them understand that they are valuable human beings who have amazing opportunities open to them, and that help is available from other agencies in the community that we can connect them to. That's very important. There are many agencies and organizations in Ulster County ready and willing to meet the needs of these clients, their babies, and their families."
Hopefully, Family of Woodstock, the YWCA, and the Department of Social Services will be ready. And if all else fails, as one PSC pamphlet reads, Jesus is waiting: "Every woman with a crisis pregnancy has a spiritual need as well as physical ones. Jesus Christ desires to meet them all."