The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. Many non-essential businesses and services are shuttered across the country as people hunker down and socially distance themselves to prevent the spread of infection.
As Planned Parenthood sues five states to keep its doors open, pregnancy centers are implementing sweeping changes to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis. Many of these dedicated nonprofits are leveraging technology, delivery, drive-through services and online platforms in order to provide life-saving services while maintaining safe practices.
“You are leaders,” NIFLA President Thomas Glessner said to pregnancy center directors and staff during NIFLA’s recent COVID-19 webinar held virtually on March 27, 2020. Glessner referred to pregnancy center leaders as captains of ships, and their compass and anchor is the Lord. “We’re all going to get through this together.”
During NIFLA’s webinar, a Regional Medical Director in Central Virginia said health clinics can still remain open in Virginia. She said that if Planned Parenthood is open, they will remain open too. They are continuing to provide ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, STI testing and treatments, and giving women diapers and wipes, as well as hosting a virtual pregnancy and postpartum support group that meets online. As an extra precaution, they’re screening people online and getting forms filled out virtually beforehand.
Glessner reminded the centers that now is a good time to have an attorney look at state orders, and if they don’t have an attorney then NIFLA member centers should feel free to reach out to a NIFLA staff member. Glessner also stated that if the issue is whether they’re essential or not essential, NIFLA will help them. “We’ve got your backs,” he said. “Do not be intimidated.”
Audrey Stout, NIFLA Vice President of Medical Services, began speaking about whether abortion services are essential. Stout said that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) came out with a statement last week about only essential services being offered. Now, abortion industry advocates want to define abortion as an essential service.
According to a joint statement on ACOG’s website, “Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care.”
“Continuing to perform elective abortions during a pandemic is medically irresponsible. Abortions use up much needed resources such as masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment. The practice also potentially generates more patients to be seen in already overburdened emergency rooms,” the statement reads.
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) responded with a statement saying abortion is not essential.
Glessner later reiterated NIFLA’s commitment to equipping and protecting pro-life pregnancy centers in a statement:
“NIFLA’s commitment to equipping and protecting pro-life pregnancy centers has not changed as America faces the COVID-19 pandemic. We are helping our network of more than 1,500 pregnancy centers nationwide to pivot and meet essential needs during the difficult conditions brought on by the coronavirus.
"While advising our member centers to follow federal and CDC guidelines to reduce exposure risks, NIFLA is hosting weekly online training with updates, policies and procedures designed to help member centers operate during the rapidly-evolving crisis without shutting down.”
A Registered Nurse and Executive Director of a pregnancy center in Missouri said a local health department recently asked their center to take their mobile unit to find a pregnant mother with syphilis. Because local hospitals and healthcare providers are focusing on COVID-19, STI testing and treatment is not their current priority.
“We received a call from the state health department asking if we could assist in locating a young pregnant client. She tested positive for syphilis and needed treatment immediately for her sake and to avoid deadly complications for her unborn child. Our partnership with the state health department established an opportunity to get this young mother and her unborn child life-saving medical intervention,” she shared.
An Executive Director wrote about how their Maryland center is adapting in an email update. Despite closing their centers’ physical locations, they have a helpline that continues to receive calls every day. They have also been delivering baby wipes, diapers, and formula to moms in need.
“Over the past week we have made 28 deliveries to clients. Also a sonogram is scheduled for another client later this week. Center Coordinators are calling our most vulnerable moms, those newly pregnant and those near delivery,” she wrote.
An Oklahoma Pregnancy Center Executive Director recently shared:
“…we had an abortion-minded client contact us. … She shared her testimony and we also talked about how God feels about life and that this pregnancy wasn’t a surprise to Him. … When she left and filled out her exit interview she stated that she wanted to parent and possibly even do the Earn While You Learn classes. Such a wonderful day [in spite] of all the unknowns going on in this world—God is working!”
Many lives will be in danger over the coming weeks. The life-saving services, tools and resources provided by pregnancy centers are essential. Pregnancy centers are critical to the mothers and communities they serve—perhaps more so now than before as overwhelmed healthcare facilities face the COVID-19 crisis. Our prayer is that these nonprofits will be able to continue their life-affirming missions amid the death and darkness brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
This original article was written by Olivia Aveni Briscoe, a pro-life journalist and media professional. It first appeared on NIFLA's blog, https://nifla.org/pregnancy-centers-respond-to-covid-19-we-are-essential/. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.