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April 2010
By: Paul Harmon
Dear Becky,

this is the first time ive visited this site & from what people have said, it seems to be a good place to come for advice. i found out three days ago that im 2-3 weeks pregnant. when i spoke to my boyfriend about it, he said that he would stay with me whatever i chose but thought that having a baby would ruin his life. he has just turned 18 and so he is going out clubbing and enjoying himself at the moment. he doesnt have a job but says he would support a baby if he could. sometimes i feel that abortion is the best option then i can enjoy my life and make the most of it. i dont know if i can do it, but on the other hand, i dont know if i want a baby now. how can i decide. i feel so alone. i need someone, please help me. Chelsea (from the UK)

Emails from young women like Chelsea come to every day. Most of these young women are pregnant, scared, and vulnerable. They feel that they must choose between destroying the new life inside them and destroying their own lives by taking care of that new life. Fear and lack of an alternative vision compel staggering numbers of women to choose abortion.

The purpose of StandUpGirl is to address this fear and feeling of helplessness. In 1999, Paul Harmon proposed that Oregon Right to Life (ORTL) create a website where young women could find hope and courage to do the right thing about pregnancy and childbirth. Today, that website is an important pro-life voice, reaching over 300,000 Oregon women and over 10 million other young women from around the world in the last 10 years, 2 million in the last year alone.

Paul and the StandUpGirl team realized that the Internet is enormously popular with young people, but there was no place where a young woman could feel welcomed and comfortable while talking through the effect abortion will have or has had on her life. We also knew that, for many pregnant women, society held out no hope that their lives could ever be joyful and fulfilled after childbirth. Abortion was the choice for freedom.

There were many places on the web encouraging visitors to choose life, full of accurate and factual information, but those sites didn't start from the woman's viewpoint and generally didn't combine an attractive, youthful approach with a pro-life message. We set out to build a website that attracts rather than coerces, that encourages while it educates. A website that would help women deal with the unwelcome crisis in their lives by acknowledging and talking through their fears and renewing the youthful hope and optimism they should have in life.

From the conception of StandUpGirl, we knew that art mattered. Our site needed to be visually and conceptually attractive. Young people associate well-designed sites with credibility. Anton Casta of Saint Max Media was selected as the web designer, and he brought a concrete design to our amorphous ideas. He contributed his ideas, art, technical web development talent, and ongoing support of StandUpGirl's maintenance and development needs. He was the one who came up with the name "StandUpGirl." In addition, most importantly, Anton found Becky.

If Anton is the key, Becky is the core of the site. She has been a gift from God for this work. Her willingness to open her heart about a very difficult life situation was the initial spark to the site's success. All the artwork, strategy, and advertising in the world wouldn't succeed if we didn't have an honest, compelling connection to the lives of those we are trying to reach. It is Becky's life story, her willingness to share that story and her willingness to communicate with the broad public that makes this work special. Her faithfulness and dedication along with the hours she gives every week even in the face of her maternal and marital commitments are genuinely heroic. Thousands of girls have connected with Becky and shared secrets, fears, and hopes that they could not communicate to even their closest friends and family members.

Dear Chelsea,
I'm so glad that you wrote to me. I know what you are going through. When I first found out I was pregnant, I had so many thoughts and emotions going through my head constantly. I could hardly think of anything else. My whole life had been turned upside down. I just wanted to wake up and find out that it was all a bad dream. I spent a lot of time crying ... and worrying.

I know this isn't easy. Just try and take things one little step at a time. You CAN do this. And it will be so worth it in the long run. I know ... because I've been there too, and I can't imagine my life without my daughter now. She brings so much JOY into my life and into the lives of everyone around her. I thought my life was over, but instead it was only the beginning of a huge new adventure.

Keep in touch. I would be more than happy to walk through this with you and help you in any way I can. Luv, Becky

Dear Becky,
thankyou for getting back to me so quickly. i have thoughts rushing through my mind all the time. the main reasons that i am unsure of what i want are; x the fact that my boyfriend feels we are too young, so i dont want to feel responsible for ruining his life if i have the baby x sometimes i think that maybe he is right and i have lots to look forward to and plenty of time in the future for children

i think im generally just scared of the regret that id feel either way. i dont know if its better to abort my baby & regret it, or have my baby & wish that i had waited.

It is particularly encouraging that our visitors don't come from "the choir." Many of them regularly visit sites like Planned Parenthood's, and in addition to StandUpGirl. We are communicating across the great divide in society, reaching the "mushy middle" with a pro-life message. No other pro-life website has had as much success as StandUpGirl at communicating with people who are not already strongly pro-life.

Much of our success is because the main focus of StandUpGirl is to provide a support network for young women. We have received so many thousands of emails from girls writing to Becky to talk about how pregnancy or abortion will affect or has affected their lives that we have had to select a dozen additional "Stand Up Girls" to handle all of the email. These Stand Up Girls come from a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences. They are located all over the world, including one in South Africa. Visitors to our site can also talk to one another through mediated forums or post blogs about their personal experiences with unexpected pregnancy. The site includes inspirational videos, information on fetal development, and links to other helpful resources, but it is the deep sense of community and positive encouragement from real women who have lived through crisis pregnancies that makes StandUpGirl stand out.

StandUpGirl is a living work and continues to improve as time goes on. Like any non-profit, volunteer effort, we feel hampered by limited funds. In October 2009, thanks to generous support, we spent twice as much as usual on ads and were rewarded with over a quarter million visits in the month. With our current donor base, we cannot continuously spend at that rate, but if we could, we would reach more than a million extra visitors per year. We also have plans for a parallel adoption site. Without knowing exactly how it will work out, we keep counting on God to provide.

The hundreds of letters we get every month put a human face on the numbers. They are gentle reminders that this really isn't our work at all, and that it is making a difference to a lot of very real young women across America and around the world whom we normally would not be able to reach.

Dear Chelsea,
You can't go back in time though. This baby is unique, special ... one of a kind. If you decide to abort him or her ... then this baby will miss out on living the life he or she was meant to live. This baby is not a mistake. No child is. Yes, the timing may be a little different than you had planned ... it is what it is ... you can't go back and erase the fact that this little child was created. Becky

dear becky,
after a lot of consideration me & my boyfriend have decided to keep the baby. thankyou for all your help and support & thankyou for allowing me to believe i can do this. Chelsea

John Paul Harmon, President of the StandUpGirl Foundation, manages the website and serves on the board of Oregon Right to Life, which nurtures the foundation. Paul was born the unexpected 7th child when his parents were in their early 40s. Even though it was prior to Roe vs. Wade, his mother was counseled by her nursing peers that the child ("likely a mongoloid," in the parlance of the day) could be done away with quietly. Always grateful that his mother made the right choice, Paul has been actively pro-life since challenged on the subject in college. He and his wife Katy live in Albany, Oregon. They have three children, a son-in-law, and a grandson.

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