Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 4, 2009
Pregnancy Crisis Centre marks new beginnings
Pro-life group celebrates website, new quarters, increased advertising
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Jeanne McCusker, left, Gertrude Parenteau and Lorie McMillan, director of the Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre, counsel mothers in crisis.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON – A crisis pregnancy is a stressful time, and a woman’s first thoughts may swirl around fear, resentment or anger. Her whole world is changing and she doesn’t know how to face it.
For 25 years the Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre has been counselling women to deal with those difficulties and avoid abortion.
Last year alone, the centre played a role in saving six preborn children and their mothers from having an abortion.
Over the centre’s 25 years, it has faced public controversy and funding difficulties that threatened to close its doors.
But today the volunteer-run centre has a new location, a website and a growing body of advertising.
More than 50 people attending the pregnancy crisis centre’s 25th anniversary celebration on April 26 learned some of its history.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
“In 1984, a group of Catholics saw the need to form an association to make a difference for women facing unwanted pregnancies. Abortion at that time was really on the rise,” said Jeanne McCusker, who has been volunteering with the crisis centre since day one.
At that time, the American Pearson Foundation was opening many pregnancy crisis centres in the United States. The Pearson approach is that abortion is not an option.
David Little, with the Catholic Foundation for Human Life, was promoting the Pearson approach in Moncton, N.B. Little and Dr. Ted Kasper helped set up the centre in Edmonton.
Gertrude Parenteau, another 25-year volunteer with the crisis centre, said when the Morgentaler Clinic opened in 1992, it became so easy to get an abortion in Edmonton that women stopped considering other options. As a result, the Pregnancy Crisis Centre saw a marked decline in the number of clients.
The centre has not been without its share of controversy over the past quarter century. A W5 story on pregnancy centres across Canada depicted the Pregnancy Crisis Centre as “manipulative extremists.”
The centre offers pro-life information and education on all options for crisis pregnancies and free pregnancy testing. The centre provides peer counselling on alternatives to abortion, including adoption. Women and their families can learn about the potential risks of contraception.
“They have been giving sex education in schools for all these years, but the young people are far from being educated,” said Parenteau.
“It’s a case of educating them as well because often when a young woman comes in, she is thinking only in terms of getting rid of the baby,” said Lorie McMillan, the centre’s director.
SIX BABIES SAVED
Of the centre’s 83 clients last year, 53 were for pregnancy testing and the other 30 were natural family planning clients. Of the 53 women tested, 31 showed positive and 22 negative. Among those who were positive, 20 intended to keep their babies and 11 initially wanted abortions. Of those 11, six changed their minds.
“Six babies have been saved. Six mothers and six fathers have been spared the trauma of abortion,” said McMillan.
Added Parenteau, “We don’t make their decisions for them, but we try to make them understand their options.”
The counsellors provide basic information to their clients in crisis on the psychological aftermath of abortion, fetal development, chastity and pro-life referrals, assistance beyond the walls of the centre. Their services are available to all, regardless of age, marital status, race, religion, legal residence or economic status.
The crisis centre, now situated upstairs at 12212 Jasper Ave., is one of a few pro-life organizations that abide by the magisterium of the Catholic Church.
VOLUNTEERS AND DONORS
The centre operates solely on volunteers and relies on donors’ generosity for its survival. Over the years the centre has faced difficulties involving lack of money and lack of volunteers.
Hardest hit in 1992, the centre started a Mother’s Day sale of long-stemmed red roses and that prevented the centre’s closure. The annual rose sale is now well established in Edmonton and continues to be a successful fundraiser.
In 2008, a total of $12,700 was raised through the sale of roses, and an additional $15,835 in other donations.
McMillan said that the total of $28,535 covered yearly expenses, including the move to the new location on Jasper Avenue, bus ads on 110 buses and more extensive advertising in the Yellow Pages and in the NAIT student handbook, among other local publications.
A pilot project is the introduction of collection envelopes at four Catholic parishes. Also new this year is the crisis centre’s website: www.edpregnancy.org.