Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve: How the Pro-Life Movement Walks the Walk

On Christmas Eve, there are countless stories about how Mary and Joseph could not find room in the inn. So, it seems appropriate to discuss how the pro-life movement helps care for children and their mothers after their children are born regardless of time of year. 

This posting was partly inspired as I was watching an episode of Law and Order's a few months ago when the character of policewoman Anita Van Buren commented about pro-life people, "yeah, they want the mothers to have the babies but they don't care what happens after they are born..."  Do an online search using those words and there are dozens of similar entries that libel the pro-life movement in a similar manner.
So, let's learn the truth. 

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal ran a column by Bill McGurn about Good Counsel, a home and network for challenged mothers in the New York area that decide to keep their babies:

Just a few evenings from now, children badly costumed as shepherds and angels and wise men will appear in nativity pageants the world over. Even the worst of these performances will underscore the hope and humbleness of that first Christmas, when a Jewish woman with child brought forth her son in a stable because there was no room for her at the inn.
More than two millennia later, the Bronx has improved on ancient Bethlehem. Here at Fulton Avenue and 167th Street, in one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods, a pregnant woman with nowhere else to turn will always find what she needs most: an open door and a caring heart. 
Welcome to Good Counsel, a network of six homes plus a 24/7 hotline. They are the life’s work of Chris Bell, a lean and gentle 59-year-old husband and father whose story could never be made for the big screen today because only Jimmy Stewart in his prime could do him justice. 
Monique Campbell and her daughter, Kimberly.ENLARGE
Monique Campbell and her daughter, Kimberly. 
Way back in 1985, Mr. Bell had complained to a priest that no one was doing anything for homeless pregnant women. The priest in effect responded: “Hey, pal, what about you?
Not long after, Mr. Bell co-founded his first Good Counsel home with the help of that same priest. The home was opened in a former convent in Hoboken, N.J., which turned out to have been part of the parish where Frank Sinatra had been baptized. So when a Daily News columnist named Bill Reel wrote a Mother’s Day piece on this struggling new enterprise, Mr. Bell soon received a call from Old Blue Eyes himself—along with a $10,000 check. Three decades on, the need has not abated.
“I was scared when I first came here,” says Monique Campbell. “But Good Counsel teaches you what you need to be on your own, whether it’s how to cook or the training you need for a job.” 
Ms. Campbell, 21 years old, came to Good Counsel earlier this year after her family threw her out upon learning she was pregnant. Her daughter, Kimberly, was born this past summer, so mom is now finishing her GED while also working to become a certified nursing assistant.
His column goes on to say,


Make no mistake: No Good Counsel home will ever make it to the cover of House Beautiful. Because Mr. Bell takes no government money, his will always be a shoestring operation. With all those moms and babies, moreover, chaos is a feature, not a bug. 
But the homes are warm. They are safe. And the folks who staff them count it a good thing when a young woman with an unplanned pregnancy who prefers to keep her baby actually has the choice to do so. 
Janelle Washington, a Vassar graduate whose son Izen (the name means “never give up”) was born in October, says that such has been her experience with Good Counsel that her goal now is to get a job as a counselor for women like herself. “So I can give back,” she explains. 
The most extraordinary thing about Good Counsel? 
“That it exists,” says Jozylyn Perez. Earlier this year Ms. Perez found herself pregnant, with three other children to feed—and no apartment. “When I had no place to go they didn’t ask me any questions about who I was. They said ‘this is your room’ and ‘we’re going to take care of you until you can take care of yourself and your child.’ ”
Here in Wichita, Via Christi Health and various Catholics support Girard House which is also a (wonderful) home for pregnant teenagers and young women. Very much like Good Counsel, they not only provide a place to live, they teach young women parenting and job skills. I have visited Girard and came away tremendously impressed.

Okay, but what do pro-lifers do after the young mothers leave these homes? I can only answer that question for Wichita, so here goes:
  • Guadalupe Clinic, sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, provides medical care at greatly reduced costs. The faith of the mother does not matter. 
  • Many Catholic parishes and evangelical Christian churches offer free or reduced-cost daycare and full time pre-school. 
  • In the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, an education by our excellent schools is free for everyone. Yes, free. At our parish, full-time pre-school begins at age 4. We are determined that no child will be deprived a good education regardless of the parents' financial condition. 
  • Finally, we have The Lord's Diner. It provides a free hot dinner to anyone who shows up. Because we have neighborhoods of working poor in Wichita, the Diner now has a food truck that prepares and distributes hot meals in those neighborhoods. In some cases, it provides meals for multiple nights that can be taken from the truck, put in the refrigerator, then warmed when needed. 
I know that similar programs are available throughout the nation, run by people with big hearts who want to help their fellow human beings in difficult circumstances and, most of all, want the next generation of children to grow up safe, secure, healthy and well-educated. 

A big thanks to the Wall Street Journal for highlighting how the pro-life movement advocates and cares for women in difficult circumstances, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.

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