An unplanned pregnancy can shake someone’s foundation, create waves of stress, fear of uncertainty and outright panic. Offering a source of support, encouragement and stability is the mission of Hope Pregnancy Centers of Central Texas.
Hope has offices in Temple, Copperas Cove and Killeen, and sees about 2,100 to 2,500 clients per year, said Heather Ortner, director of development for the faith-based nonprofit group, during a presentation to the Gatesville Exchange Club. She said in recent years, a little over 200 people from the Gatesville area have received services from Hope.
Among the services offered are free pregnancy testing, non-diagnostic ultrasounds, parenting classes, essential items such as diapers, wipes, formula, baby clothing and furniture, maternity clothing and various support and encouragement opportunities.
“We want the women and men who visit us to know they are not alone,” Ortner said.
While Hope counsels its clients to consider options other than abortion – including the readily available abortion pill – Ortner said there is grace and forgiveness through God’s love for people no matter their past actions or circumstances. She said one of the services available is recovery for those whose lives have been impacted by abortion in some way, whether women or men.
“We care about more than just the birth of the baby,” Ortner said. “We believe in abundant life. God has a plan and a purpose for everybody. The first thing we tell people is they are made in God’s image, and we value them.”
While the vast majority of clients are women, there are also men who seek to support the women in their lives who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, whether they are the father, a family member or a friend.
“Many of the clients do not have a close relationship or any relationship with their fathers,” Ortner said. “Many people think clients are teens but most of the women we see are between the ages of 20 to 24 or even 20 to 29. We do have some teen pregnancies, but they are not as common.”
About 76% of Hope’s clients are not married, “and each has hopes and dreams, value and is made in the image of God,” Ortner said.
While many older adults who are Baby Boomers or Generation X think of the younger generation as Millennials, Ortner said many of the young clients in their 20s are part of Generation Z, which have different traits.
“I am 37 and I’m a Millennial,” Ortner said. “There are differences between Millennials and Gen Z.” She said those considered to be Generation Z are “generally more open to spiritual things – which can be both good and bad – are more open-minded, tend to be closer to their grandparents, are more accepting and more vulnerable.”
Those visiting the pregnancy centers may be unsure and panicking, and sometimes may make a decision based on fear, Ortner said.
The presence of the baby’s father in a woman’s life – and his view of the pregnancy as well as the views of other close family – has a big impact on the mother’s security, she said.
Many of the men involved leave the choice about the baby to the mother, having been told “her body, her choice” and while that may seem admirable on the surface, Ortner said, “it puts all the pressure on the woman.”
Male volunteers at Hope Pregnancy Center are eager to help in whatever way they can, Ortner said, and added that she sees a spiritual hunger in many of the men who visit the centers.
“They are yearning for a purpose – for spiritual guidance,” she said.
Some of the clients are young married couples who may be struggling financially, other women may be pregnant with a child who is not their husband’s or boyfriend’s, and some live lifestyles in which they may not know who the father is, Ortner said.
Regardless of the circumstances, Hope strives to reach out to clients and help them make the best not only of their pregnancy, but of their lives, she said.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade – leaving the decision about the legality of abortion to individual states – there are still options for women to receive abortions, Ortner said.
“They can travel to another state, or it is easy to obtain an abortion pill online and it’s unregulated,” she said. Ortner explained that chemical abortions can put women’s health at risk, and the online pill providers caution women not to seek medical help, putting them in potential danger.
While preventing abortion is a priority of Hope Pregnancy Centers, Ortner said abortion recovery is “one of our services and a huge part of our ministry. We have Bible studies and retreats for men and women” (who have been impacted by abortion in their past).
Ortner said for women who take the first dose of an abortion pill and later regret it (a chemical abortion via the pill is a two-step process), there is an abortion pill reversal treatment that counteracts the effect of the first pill.”
Life after pregnancy is also a big part of the ministry, she said.
“It’s not just the birth that’s important to us, we are there for them for the long term,” Ortner said. “We have classes, services and support groups that continue to offer resources and help.”
The centers receive no government funding and are supported by donations. Churches sometimes have a Baby Bottle Boomerang fundraiser in which funds are collected starting on Mother’s Day and turned in on Father’s Day. Ortner said $48,000 was raised through those campaigns.
She said that the Highway 2 Heaven Biker Church in Gatesville was one of Hope’s supporters, recently donating $2,000.
For more information on Hope Pregnancy Centers, www.hopepc.com or call 254-519-3343.