A going (and going) concern – Clinic celebrates nearly 600 births; gala upcoming

April 15, 2010
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Less than a week ago, little David celebrated his first birthday.

There were balloons and smiles and a cake too, but it was a birthday whose candles were nearly blown out before they were even lit.

That’s because David’s mother, Jesse, feeling overwhelmed and stressed early in her pregnancy, had decided to abort him.

She pretty much had her mind made up, she said, until – still conflicted over the decision – she sought out information and a sympathetic ear from A Women’s Concern – a Pro-Life oriented pregnancy resource clinic on Broadway in Revere.

“Now, I can’t see my life without him,” said Jesse, 25, of Revere. “If I had gone through with the abortion, I don’t think I could have lived with myself.”

Jesse said that she already had two older kids when she found out she was pregnant with David. While she never had any second thoughts about keeping her first two children, her pregnancy with David seemed ill timed.

“I wasn’t sure if I should keep him,” she said. “My mind was so set on getting an abortion. I don’t really agree with it at all, but I kept thinking about how I couldn’t afford it at all and how tough it was going to be…I was not working and I had just lost my job. I had also just moved out of a tough situation with his father.”

Obviously, she kept David and his birthday candles stayed lit long enough for him to make a wish and blow them out himself (or maybe with a little help from his Mom).

Taking the Pressure Out of the Decision

Teresa Larkin, president of A Woman’s Concern, said that Jesse’s story is one that her organization points to because it involves a woman who took careful time to get all the information necessary before making what is a lasting and long-term decision.

Jesse’s story about her baby is but one of more than 570 stories that the organization has counted since starting in Revere 12 years ago.

“Our organization sprang out of a movement several years ago,” said Larkin. “Many women who initially had abortions when it became legal felt afterward that they weren’t given real information and real options. It became necessary for women to get those options and information and spend as much time as they needed to ask questions without any pressure.”

And that’s exactly what the local clinic – which mostly serves Revere, Winthrop and Chelsea – is all about, and it’s what they’ll be pointing out at their upcoming Celebrate Life Night at the First Baptist Church in Chelsea (185 Shurtleff St.) on April 30 at 7 p.m.

Larkin said A Woman’s Concern has several centers and two of them are licensed medical clinics – the Revere office and one in Dorchester. Informational centers are located in Beverly, Hyannis and Fall River.

“We like to occasionally reintroduce ourselves and let people know what they are really supporting and what’s coming of that support,” said Larkin.

Carolyn Rodgers is the site director at the Revere office and worked closely with Jesse, who will share her story at the Celebrate Life event.

“Carolyn didn’t make me or force me to keep the baby,” said Jesse. “She just told me to take time to think. I wasn’t looking beyond that day. I was only thinking about that moment. I thought about the future and how lucky I was to have a baby and I decided to keep David.”

Larkin said their center provides a comfortable environment that takes away the pressure, as opposed to a hospital environment where many women say they feel pressured into making a quick decision right then and there.

“Regardless of the decision you make, it’s important to be informed and educated,” said Larkin. “It’s important to come to us because you don’t have to make a decision quickly. Women don’t really understand how long they have to make a decision. If you’re six weeks pregnant, the world isn’t going to drastically change if you take some time to think.”

Added Rodgers, “If you need three visits to come here, you get three visits.”

What Do They Do?

Larkin and Rodgers said there are many misconceptions about what happens at their Broadway clinic under the little, familiar red sign.

They aren’t an adoption agency.

Nor are they an abortion clinic, which, ironically, some have thought.

They don’t do prenatal care and they don’t deliver babies.

What they do is provide detailed information, pregnancy testing, ultrasound exams, needs assessments, parenting support and parenting classes.

Soon, they will also be offering a small-group GED diploma program.

And they do it all free of charge.

“There are no grants and no federal funding,” said Rodgers. “It’s totally free so nothing’s at stake.”

Added Larkin, “We do ultrasounds and the reason we do those is to give women a real understanding of where they are in their pregnancy and whether their pregnancy is viable so that they can make an informed decision.”

To do those things, though, requires money, and to date the clinic has survived on the good will of donors from Revere, Winthrop and Chelsea.

“We were in Dorchester first and then about 12 years ago we came here at the invitation of the local church community in Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop,” said Larkin. “It still has continued to have very strong support from all denominations of churches – Catholic, Protestant, and non-denominational. We get very strong support from the church communities here.”

Some of that support includes diaper drives at local Revere churches, huge baby showers at the two Winthrop Catholic parishes to provide all sorts of baby supplies, or even landscaping help from the First Baptist Church in Chelsea.

“The pastor from the Chelsea First Baptist Church was actually here cutting the bushes for us,” said Rodgers.

Other support includes long-time volunteers like MaryEllen Montville, a Winthrop resident, who is a dedicated client service volunteer at the clinic.

The Choice

Larkin said that they outline all three choices to clients.

Women who come to them with an unplanned pregnancy can either consider adoption, keeping the child, or abortion.

And while they don’t do referrals for abortions, they also don’t shut out those that have ultimately made that decision.

“Those women who do make that decision have said they do feel comfortable coming back and a lot of them do come back to talk with us,” said Larkin.

“I’ve seen women who chose to have an abortion and then referred their friends to our clinic,” said Rodgers. “Sometimes women come back to us and say, ‘I’m having a bad day’ or that they’re feeling bad about it. They’re always treated well here. We tend to form bonds and friendships. A lot of what we do is pick up the pieces of a difficult situation.”

Naturally, though, the choice they would make would be to have more happy endings like little David in Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop; more first birthday parties with candles burning brightly.

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