Pro-life groups offer practical help to pregnant women


By Carol Zimmermann

For women facing unplanned pregnancies, the price of disposable diapers alone can be daunting.

That’s because they cost an estimated $800 per year and are just one expense among many.

And that’s why Mimi Eckstein, director of the Denver archdiocese’s Gabriel Project — which supports pregnant women and new mothers — makes sure she has plenty of diapers in all sizes to offer new mothers.

In fact, she noticed Sept. 23 that the office was running out of large diapers and was planning to put out a call to local parishes to conduct a diaper drive.

Providing diapers is one of the very practical services this local group offers to help expectant and new mothers, especially in today’s tight economy.

“The church is right here,” said Eckstein who has seen the number of women seeking help increase since she began doing this work a decade ago. Two years ago the ministry moved from a diocesan office to a home named Gabriel House. The house, affiliated with the diocesan Respect Life Office and primarily run by volunteers, provides space to store items from formula to baby furniture and a place to meet with women and provide spiritual and emotional support.

The ministry is part of a nationwide effort among Catholic parishes and dioceses to provide more hands-on help to pregnant women. Project Gabriel, which began in 1991 in Corpus Christi, Texas, promotes parishioner-based counseling for pregnant women. Parishes that provide this program often place billboard signs on their property with the message “Pregnant? Need Help?” along with a phone number.

Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, said practical support from parishes and pregnancy centers is key to the pro-life movement. which she pointed out is not just “saying no to abortion but yes to life.” She also calls this kind of support a way to “connect the dots” and particularly help poor women.

Foster was not surprised by statistics released by the Guttmacher Institute this summer that found an increase in the number of abortions in the United States by low-income women despite an overall decrease from 2000-2008.The results of this study, “Changes in Abortion Rates Between 2000 and 2008 and Lifetime Incidence of Abortion,” were published in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Guttmacher, which has been tracking abortion since 1974, found that the abortion rate for low-income women increased 18 percent during the same period that the national rate dropped 8 percent. Low-income women — those earning $17,170 or less in a three-person household — accounted for 514,040 abortions, or 42 percent of all abortions, in 2008. The abortion rate for the poor rose from 44.4 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2000 to 52.2 in 2008.

The study’s lead author, Rachel Jones, said the increase in the abortion rate for poor women is likely due to the downturn in the economy and also points to a need for better contraceptive access and family planning counseling.

Foster sees it differently. She said the economy is certainly a factor but it doesn’t need to determine women’s choices especially if they are aware of available help and resources.

That’s why her organization has published an online resource called “Raising Kids on a Shoestring” — available at –which gives new and expectant families advice on affordable housing, food, furniture and even diapers.

She said the practical tool stems from a concern for families especially in “dire economic times” and a desire to help them realize that they can “raise children without billions of dollars” if they tap into available resources.