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Without Abortion, Pregnancy Support Programs Face High Demand – WHIO TV 7 and WHIO Radio

NEW YORK – (NEW YORK) – The landmark Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has paved the way for a major test of public and private pregnancy support programs that abortion rights opponents have touted for decades.

“Now is not the time to party. I’m not celebrating,” said Archbishop William Lori, America’s top Catholic who heads the church’s campaign for alternatives to abortion. “It’s a time of stability, of staying the course, of increased compassion, of increased service.”

Maternity centers and crisis pregnancy resource centers — offering everything from housing assistance to free diapers — expect demand to rise in states enacting tough new abortion bans. The Catholic Church is one of the major funders of a national pregnancy support network.

“Our main target is women and children. Not only do we provide services, but we are strong advocates for the poor, needy and vulnerable,” Lori said.

Critics say the church is dangerously ill-equipped and unprepared. In the 13 states where trigger laws were enacted to ban abortions after Roe’s cancellation, more than 103,000 were performed in 2020 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I don’t think they considered the ramifications in a post-Roe world,” Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, told ABC News. “The amount of care, social work and life skills training that these women need is enormous.”

Since SB8 banned nearly all abortions in Texas starting September 2021, 84,000 women have signed up for a state-funded “Abortion Alternatives” program aimed at supporting women who pursue unwanted pregnancies, according to Texas Health and Human Services.

Texas Catholic aid programs are also seeing an impact.

“We now have a waiting list. We are already trying to prepare and make sure we can meet current needs in addition to any increases we may see,” said Kasey Whitley, who oversees Project Gabriel at Ft. Worth, a church-funded ministry for women in crisis.

The diocese helped 175 women last year. Kexsy Villeda, a single mother who discovered she was unexpectedly pregnant on the day of her divorce, said the program gave her emotional support and financial stability.

“I looked at my son, and I couldn’t. No,” she said after briefly considering abortion five months into her pregnancy.

Kathleen Wilson, manager of Mary’s Shelter in Fredericksburg, Va., a Catholic-funded organization that helps women with unwanted or unintended pregnancies, told ABC News she was increasing capacity this summer due to a constant stream of women in need.

The Catholic Church is the largest religious institution in the country with 18,000 local parishes. Its leaders have long promised women in crisis unconditional emotional and financial assistance until motherhood, if they carry their child to term.

“The church is not limited to prohibitions. Actually, that’s not our main focus,” Lori said. A spokesperson for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops could not provide a dollar figure for how much the Church spends annually on pregnancy support nationwide.

Catholic abortion advocates say allowing a woman to terminate her pregnancy should be a matter of conscience and social justice. And, many say, efforts to dissuade women from abortion involve misleading claims about long-term support.

“Forced motherhood is never a good thing. And denying someone what’s right for them, essential care, is wrong. I think it’s a sin,” Manson said.

The American Public Health Association, in a brief to the Supreme Court last year, said banning abortion would lead to “high risks of maternal mortality…infant mortality…[and] traumas…[that can] trigger intergenerational damage.

“Look at the big picture. Since Roe v. Wade, there have been 63 million abortions. It’s a lot. Lots of lives lost,” Lori said when asked about the analysis. “The answer is to provide the best possible medical care.”

Critics of the Church and other faith-based anti-abortion initiatives say they prioritize bans over lobbying for the expansion of social programs that support life, like a higher minimum wage, nutritional support and paid family leave.

The 14 states with the most restrictive abortion laws, including Texas, invest the least in policies and programs for women and children, according to a 2020 analysis by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, a think tank on social policy.

“I don’t think we should underestimate the generosity of the charities or the services we provide, or the people of God,” Lori said. “The Church of Texas is picking up the slack. Again, they’ve given us some insight and I think a very helpful insight into what’s to come.”