This summer, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a pro-life pregnancy center in the metropolitan Detroit area. I have been active in Georgetown Right to Life and helped organize the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life in the past, but had never been involved in pro-life advocacy on a grassroots level. Deciding to volunteer for the pro-life cause in the real world was a bit outside my comfort zone, but it quickly became one of the most rewarding experiences of my college years.
At first I was a bit hesitant about working for an explicitly faith-centered organization. I’m a practicing Catholic and my faith has certainly influenced my participation in the pro-life movement. Still, my religious background is not one of the first things I mention when introducing myself. I have only been comfortable sharing that information publicly the past couple of years as I have grown into my faith in college. Secondly, I was concerned that the religious component of this center could stand in the way of helping clients – who might be less receptive to hearing our message if they did not share the same religious background. My worry was two-fold: would I be comfortable with this atmosphere and was this center’s approach an effective way to reach women in need?
After just a few days working as receptionist and go-fer, I quickly learned that the answer to both questions was a resounding “yes”. My coworkers were some of the most sincere and compassionate people I had ever encountered. They were exceptionally generous, both in sharing their time with me to show me how the office operated and, more importantly, in fulfilling all of our clients’ needs: food, clothing, housing, and someone to listen to and comfort them. Their selfless service in these areas encapsulated Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 25: 35-40 to reach out to “the least of these” as if they were Him. Shortly after I began volunteering, one of my coworkers made sure to remind me just how important it was to look beyond our clients’ current circumstances during appointments. She was adamant that not one of the women who came to us was a bad person for feeling panicked, for considering abortion, or for deciding to give her child up for adoption. Many of their lives were already unpredictable, so an unplanned and complicated pregnancy only added to their worries. Our job, she impressed upon me, was to walk with them throughout their journey no matter what they needed, no matter what options they were considering, and no matter what they ultimately decided.
One of my primary responsibilities as a receptionist was to do appointment reminder calls, both for appointments later that same day and for the next day. They were typically a straightforward, mundane task: either the client picked up, confirming or cancelling the appointment. In most cases, I left a voicemail. But one call turned out to be surprisingly meaningful. One of the clients was in an appointment, going over the particulars of her upcoming abortion procedure when she received the call, though I didn’t learn this until after the fact. She told me she would be at the appointment which began in another hour or so. I marked down “C” for confirm and went about my day. Later, I learned the full story: the client had forgotten about making a counseling appointment at our center a few weeks earlier, and rushed out of the abortion provider’s office when she received the call. Up until that moment, she had had every intention of pursuing the abortion, but the timing of the reminder made her change her mind. She continued to meet regularly with her client advocate for counseling and support, and the center helped her with some of the logistical needs of having a baby: diapers, clothes, miscellaneous toys. When we saw her again two weeks later, she was excited to tell us about the gender reveal party she was planning for the upcoming weekend. Because of the support she received from our center— material, emotional and spiritual— she felt empowered to continue her pregnancy and prepare for parenthood. My whole experience reminded me of how imperative it is for all of us in the pro-life movement never to lose sight of the people we strive to help, both mother and child.