The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned the precedent set in the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion across the country won’t end the Catholic Church’s mission to help women facing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy.
“We pray for all those facing pregnancies, both planned and unplanned, and pledge to redouble our efforts to support mothers, fathers and children at every stage of life,” the three bishops of Tennessee, Bishops J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, David P. Talley of Memphis, and Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, said in a statement after the court’s decision was announced on Friday, June 24.
Social service agencies in Nashville, including Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville and Mulier Care, that help women facing unplanned and crisis pregnancies expect the need for their services to increase.
One of the chief areas of support offered by Catholic Charities is providing emotional support to people facing crises, which includes adoption and free pregnancy counseling for women and couples.
With the reversal of the precedent set in Roe v. Wade, “Our society is going to be compelled to provide more compassion and support for mothers who do not want to place their children for adoption,” said Judy Orr, Catholic Charities executive director. “We are going to have to develop systems that promote a more progressive approach to child-rearing, such that it is not an either/or proposition for a mother/family faced with a new baby they do not feel they can manage.
“In societies in the past, a multi-generational extended family helped raise the children, and there was a lot more ‘sharing’ of child-rearing responsibilities, so that the mother did not have to sever ties with her child altogether,” she said, which is why Catholic Charities will not only emphasize its adoption services but also its pregnancy counseling.
“I feel this is a prime opportunity for our agency to emphasize our pregnancy counseling program aside from adoption,” said Julie Bolles, a Catholic Charities individual and family therapist. “I believe we will have increased opportunity to counsel and provide support and, most importantly, provide education for women about their options in an unplanned pregnancy, so they can make the decision that is best for them.”
And Catholic Charities is making sure women and couples throughout Middle Tennessee are aware of their services by updating its service materials and contact lists, and sharing them with area crisis programs, hospitals, OB-GYN offices, churches and schools.
“A lot of the women and couples we speak with come from referrals,” explained Amanda Bennett, Catholic Charities supervisor of adoptions and pregnancy counseling. “We provide education and support to women and couples and make sure they know what all of their options are” going forward.
“It is about walking with the mother and empowering her to make the best decision in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, to give her that voice to be able to say what she wants,” she said.
“We do want to increase services for families on the full spectrum, from providing counseling for an unplanned pregnancy, to mothers and couples that wish to make an adoption plan, and to those who have an unplanned pregnancy and want to parent but need support,” added Kim Morris, Catholic Charities clinical director. “It is about finding out how can we walk with them throughout their parenting journey and what supports do they need for their family to thrive?
“We do have clients who come to us because they know that we are here to support them so they can make the best decision they can for them and their family,” Morris said. “It is such a stressful time for people. It is an honor that we can come alongside them and support them in this way.”
For more information about Catholic Charities’ adoption and pregnancy counseling services, contact Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-760-1023.
Muliere Care offers a wide range of services to women facing a crisis pregnancy, both during the pregnancy and after the baby is born, including through its mobile unit, the Pregnancy Help Center, that travels to locations around Middle Tennessee offering pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and education about women’s options.
With the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case, the need for those services will only increase, said Paul Krog, Mulier Care co-director.
“We certainly think an increase in demand for our services is possible in the event Tennessee is permitted to enforce a prohibition on elective abortions,” Krog said.
Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, Krog said, “most women we encounter have already decided to have an abortion or are strongly inclined to do so. If it becomes sufficiently difficult for the average Tennessean to obtain an abortion and that it’s not something she can set her mind on, the outlook of the women we encounter will change.
“We will need to adapt to dealing with women who need help but literally don’t know what to do, as opposed to women who need help and have already settled on what they think is a solution. That will likely affect how we interact with women both on the unit and over the telephone before they arrive,” he continued. “What that will look like precisely is hard to predict. It’s a very different world than it was in 1973. The Pregnancy Help Center is going to try to find a way to help women in crisis pregnancies regardless of the year or what it looks like.”
Mulier Care was founded as a non-profit organization to provide assistance to women who have a minimal support network and are facing crisis or unplanned pregnancies, according to its official website. “We assist these women in their initial decision and provide them with a continuum of care. We recognize the dignity of women and aim to empower them to be champions for the lives of their children.”
Among the services Mulier Care offers women are: free, lab-quality pregnancy tests; first trimester ultrasounds; educational resources; and a continuum of care program, which includes healthcare enrollment, free legal services, translation services, information regarding assistance for domestic violence, assistance finding adoption services, assistance working alongside other pregnancy resource centers, advocacy and help finding OB-GYNs.
“The Pro-Life movement in the United States is not only about advocacy, influencing policies, and changing laws: this is only the tip of the iceberg. At the root of the effort is aiding the woman in making life-affirming choices for herself and her child,” according to Mulier Care’s mission. “Assisting a woman in crisis needs to include not only helping her make the right decision to preserve the sanctity of life, but also improving her livelihood and helping her provide the best care for her newborn and herself.”