Crisis pregnancy centers provide essential aid during COVID-19 pandemic

by Tess Schoonhoven, posted Friday, May 15, 2020 (2 months ago)

LIBERTY, Mo. (BP) -- In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis pregnancy centers are still working to provide care to their patients.

Medical workers at the Baptist Community Health Services treated many COVID-19 patients in hard-hit New Orleans.
Submitted photo
Carol Graham, founder and CEO of Liberty Women's Clinic in a Kansas City suburb, said all client appointments have been moved to telephone contact because of social-distancing guidelines related to the pandemic. But the clinic is preparing to enter the first phase of reopening, which would involve a combination of phone consults and some in-clinic ultrasound appointments.

The clinic's ultrasound machine was provided through the Psalm 130 Project, an initiative of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. See related story.

"We received many abortion-seeking calls and were able to provide hope, help and Christ's love at a very uncertain time in their lives," Graham said. "His [God] power, love and grace were extended and the result was many decisions for life."

Graham said the impact of COVID-19 has given the staff and volunteers at Liberty Women's Clinic an increased awareness of the value of life and the responsibility they have to protect the health of their clients. She also said the staff has found women even more vulnerable, leading to many lives changed and saved by God's grace.

With the impact of the pandemic different in some regions -- and with differing local and state guidelines to follow -- some women's health care centers have been less dramatically affected. The Source for Women North Texas in Dallas has remained open without closing or reducing services, according to Carolyn Cline, president and CEO.

Services during the pandemic, Cline said, included "pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, ultrasound, STD screening and treatment, gynecological services, prenatal and parenting education," as well as emotional support. Appointments have been conducted in-person, but also through tele-med and Zoom.

"We've been asked if it was really necessary for us to be open," Cline said. "For the over 50 babies who have been spared from abortion in the past two months, I can say that even one life is valuable to the Lord."

For many crisis health care clinics, continued ministry has been partly enabled by partnership with various Southern Baptist organizations -- including donations of much-needed personal protective equipment.

Shawn Powers, CEO of Baptist Community Health Services in New Orleans, said the clinic has cared for, tested and treated patients with COVID-19. The coronavirus outbreak hit the region particularly hard.

"We were fortunate early on to be able to activate a robust tele-health strategy and a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site," Powers said. "This allowed our health center to be one of the first community health centers in our state fully engaged in the COVID-19 fight."

Powers said early in the pandemic, BCHS had a shortage of N95 protective masks. With only 18 masks remaining, Powers said Southern Baptist organizations including the New Orleans Baptist Association, the Louisiana Baptist Convention's disaster relief ministry and even a professor from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) combined to donate more than 1,000 masks.

"This was a tremendous surprise, because never in our wildest dreams would we have envisioned our spiritual family to be the resource God provided for our medical supply needs," Powers said, "but we are eternally grateful for their generosity of spirit."

Powers said BCHS has served many COVID-19 patients from diagnosis through to recovery. One of the missionary doctors at the clinic was also diagnosed with COVID-19, but has recovered. BCHS is preparing now for other health issues in the New Orleans region as a result of the pandemic.

"The next associated wave will be behavioral health needs of the communities we serve," Powers said. "We've just hired a licensed clinical social worker to our growing behavioral health team and we'd like to hire more."

Just before the pandemic arrived, BCHS launched a new patient engagement center, staffed in part by students from NOBTS.

"The team is growing and provisions are made possible," Powers said. "We're looking to hire more NOBTS students to help us fulfill the medical mission we've been given by our good Lord. In the coming months we also plan to hire more doctors and a nurse practitioner."

At The Source NTX, construction is underway to expand facilities at a satellite location less than a half-mile from the largest Planned Parenthood facility in north Texas. Cline said they are trusting God to supply the funds and medical equipment necessary open the facility this summer.

"The medical needs of this underserved community have only increased during this time of restricted services, so we know God is not leading us to shrink back from what He's called us to do," Cline said. "It will be exciting to see how He will use and how He will provide."

In the Kansas City suburbs, Graham said Liberty Women's Clinic is also seeking to expand ministry to abortion-seeking women. While it's hard to determine what the "new normal" will look like, she said the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reevaluate and strategically reset the ministry.

"While our goals haven't changed, the virus has given us time to review and adjust some of our methods, and we will move forward with those that have been successful," Graham said.

Graham added: "We are certain that God has not changed and He has a plan to protect His precious creation. In the darkest of times, we are grateful to be used as His light of life in our community."

Power said BCHS focuses on preaching the Gospel as well as healing physical needs.

"Ultimately, we're all facing eternity," Power said, "and when we get to heaven, we hope to joyfully see thousands of our patients with us worshiping face to face our grace-giving Lord."

Tess Schoonhoven is a Baptist Press staff writer
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