WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Centre volunteers Lorie McMillan, left, Gertrude Parenteau, Jeanne McCusker, Ingrid Brodeur and Jenny Lo share a moment of joy.
EDMONTON — The Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre has experienced three major changes over the summer: a new location, new website and new ultrasound machine.
The centre expects the changes will help it improve how it carries out its mission of providing pro-life alternatives to those facing crisis pregnancies.
The Pregnancy Crisis Centre was forced to leave its long-time Jasper Avenue office and has relocated to 11125-107 Ave., near both Grant MacEwan University, St. Joseph's High School and NAIT.
The centre learned earlier this year that its Jasper Avenue building was being torn down.
But centre volunteers are convinced that God's hand was at work. They soon found a 1,200-square-foot space for rent in the same building as the Edmonton Pro-Life Society. The floor space is about double the size of the old location.
They moved in, with Archbishop Richard Smith present to bless the new centre, on July 31.
"The old location was hard to find, it wasn't the nicest location, the stairwell was unaccommodating and the space was very small. Now we're easier to find being on a major bus route, and it's far more attractive," said Dana McArthur, a crisis centre volunteer.
Many of the men and women who seek help at the centre view abortion as their only option and give common excuses for wanting one.
A woman doesn't want her boyfriend to be the father of her child. If she doesn't get an abortion, she will be kicked out of her home. Or a pregnancy will interfere with her university studies or summer vacation.
"Yes, there are zillions of excuses. There are as many scenarios as there are clients," said Jeanne McCusker, who has been volunteering at the crisis centre since it opened in 1984.
The clients express concern over how a pregnancy will impact school, careers, finances and reputations. The Pregnancy Crisis Centre counsels women on how to deal with such life-changing difficulties.
It offers free pregnancy testing and pro-life information on options for crisis pregnancies. The centre provides peer counselling on alternatives to abortion, including adoption. Women and their families can also learn about the dangers of contraception.
The education goes beyond what young people learn in school. The counsellors provide information to their clients on the psychological aftermath of abortion, fetal development and chastity.
"One delightful result was a young couple came in with the idea that they wanted an abortion. They said they couldn't afford a baby," said Lorie McMillan, director of the centre. "I introduced them to a four-minute video which shows the development, and they went away to think about their decision some more."
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
The rose, model of an unborn child speaks of the centre's mission.
The couple chose to keep the baby. McMillan was invited to the baby shower and later to his first birthday party.
Adding credibility to the centre is the fact it follows the teaching of the Catholic Church. Unlike similar centres, the Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre is the only one with a Catholic identity.
The centre was based on the American Pearson Foundation's approach that abortion is not an option. David Little, with the Catholic Foundation for Human Life, was promoting the Pearson approach in Moncton, N.B., and helped set up the Edmonton centre.
When the Morgentaler Clinic opened in Edmonton in 1992, women could get an abortion with ease, and many stopped considering other options. As a result, the Pregnancy Crisis Centre saw a marked decline in the number of clients.
In 2010, the centre received 88 clients. Of the 68 women who wanted pregnancy testing, 38 tested positive. Eleven women who were going to have abortions decided, after visiting the Pregnancy Crisis Centre, to have their babies.
"Even if they test negative, they don't leave the same way they came in," said Gertrude Parenteau, another longtime volunteer.
"A couple was asking for an abortion, but they were negative. I asked them if they had any religious background that could help them, and the guy said, 'The only thing I know about religion is the word 'God.'
"I don't know what I said, something that stuck him, but he told me, 'Have we ever learned something today!'"
The Pregnancy Crisis Centre's new website (www.edpregnancy.ca) has also been garnering attention. The site has resulted in more inquiries and drop-ins.
Another tool in the fight against abortion is an ultrasound machine, which the crisis centre will receive in the next few days. The Knights of Columbus have donated the machine.
Across the United States, the Knights donated 70 ultrasound machines to pregnancy crisis centres. At those centres, 90 per cent of the women who considered abortions opted out of aborting their babies after seeing an ultrasound image.
Society tells a newly pregnant woman that what's inside them is not a baby yet, said McArthur. They expect to see a small black circle. But when she sees the tiny fingers and toes, her perception changes.
"We will be able to demonstrate by heartbeat and by sight that there is a real human being there. We have a room set aside for it," said McMillan.
A doctor is overseeing the project, and a sonographer has volunteered her time to operate the unit at the centre.
The centre's major fundraiser is the annual Mother's Day Rose Sale. A $55 donation keeps a bus ad on Edmonton transit or St. Albert transit for one year.
The Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre is always in need of more volunteers. Those interested can contact the centre via its website or call 780-482-5111.