Fathers and crisis pregnancies

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, August 13th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It:  Pro-life work in Alabama.

When Gov. Kay Ivey signed sweeping protections for the unborn into law last May, it made headlines. 

Those protections are supposed to take effect in November, but legal challenges loom.

EICHER: That, of course, comes as no surprise to those who sponsored the bill. They say they wrote that way, to try to trigger a court case that could challenge Roe v. Wade.

WORLD Radio’s Kim Henderson now has a story for us from a pregnancy resource center on the front lines of the fight over abortion.

AUDIO: [Sound of downtown chimes]

KIM HENDERSON, REPORTER: The bells of Montgomery, Alabama, have seen their share of civil rights boycotts, marches, and protests. Today, they ring over a different kind of civil rights struggle—protecting the unborn—regardless of what happens in the courts.

GARTH: Yes, so it’s a win when abortion is made illegal, because that’s a public affirmation of life. But the real win is when a private affirmation of life happens.

That’s Bethany Garth, executive director of First Choice Women’s Medical Center in Montgomery.  

GARTH: A woman who takes a pregnancy test sees the positive line on the pregnancy test and recognizes that that’s a human life that needs to be valued. So this is one of our counseling rooms. And we have 3 counseling rooms.  

First Choice is a pregnancy resource center staffed with parenting educators, four nurses, a post-abortion counselor and—as of June—someone to reach those often left out of the abortion equation—dads. 

GARTH: It has been clearly identified that the number one influencer in a woman’s decision about her pregnancy is the father of the baby. If we’re really looking at the big pro-life picture, men have to be a part of the decision process. 

But engaging fathers is tough work, especially in Alabama. One third of the state’s children live in homes where fathers are absent. 

AUDIO: [Sound of staff talking]

Each day, staff members at the center deal with generational effects of fatherlessness.

WILLIAMS: The women just take over, you know, and they say, well, I’m
just, you know, I’m going to do me. It’s that independent spirit.   

STAFF MEMBERS: A lot of the young men that come in, they’ll fall asleep out there. They don’t have a role model. They’ve never seen that portrayed in a right way in front of them. 

Until they meet men like Craig Shore, a father and foster parent of 3. He’s the first to spearhead the center’s growing ministry to dads. That includes meeting men who come to the initial appointment. So while the mom gets prenatal vitamins, Shore makes a connection with the father and hands over a pamphlet titled: “10 Tips for Expectant Dads.”   

Then there are men-only group sessions on topics like child discipline. 

LEADER: Was this helpful? FATHER: Yeah. I just thought about something you said. Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing to let the kids see you’re emotional, you’re upset with something.   

Shore’s new role has him facilitating instruction on everything from financial responsibility to infant first aid. It also has him praying. 

SHORE: I’m praying for safe deliveries. I’m praying for the individuals to, um, get the promotion that they wanted. I’m praying for, um, their mom and dad not to be upset when they tell them they’re having a baby. Praying that those situations lead to Christ ultimately. 

And his aim reaches beyond delivery dates. 

SHORE: Sometimes we don’t have that continued relationship, which is so needed because, um, we’re educating on a safe pregnancy. It’s a lot different from a safe toddler. You know, like those are different conversations and we are resourced past, um, when the baby gets here.

Shore gets help at the sessions from volunteers like Anthony Poellnitz. If dads attend regularly, they can earn baby gear such as Pack ’n Plays and convertible car seats. And sometimes even some food. 

ANTHONY: Oh, well cool. Well, y’all grab some pizzas.

Poellnitz believes dads are key to the pro-life fight. 

ANTHONY: If they can lead, they can make these decisions, they can be the father that they need to be, then these women will be glad to continue life and continue to go on because they know there’s somebody there in their corner. 

Support is a major concern for a woman with an unplanned pregnancy. At centers like First Choice, tangible help for a mom usually tapers off after two years. 

GARTH: But her need for support continues to increase as the child ages. And so to the degree that woman cannot figure out where she will find that support, she is much more likely to have an abortion.

That’s why Craig Shore and the others at the center want to reach fathers. When dads are involved, long-term support becomes possible and more women make life-affirming choices. 

AUDIO: [Sound of downtown chimes]

So while legal challenges to Alabama’s pro-life laws play out, the sound of church bells still ring out across Montgomery. And the work at First Choice continues. 

AUDIO: [Sound of Garth going into ultrasound room]

Staff provide pregnancy tests, conduct ultrasounds, offer counseling, and visit hospitals where new parents are all alone. And while they’re at it, they save babies and teach families about the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.    

GARTH: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, there will still be women and men facing unplanned pregnancies. So I hope everyone’s ready to invest more in their local pregnancy centers, because the need will be greater than ever.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson reporting from Montgomery, Alabama. 

(Photo/Kim Henderson)

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