Pregnancy care centers continue to serve in post-Roe era

JMJ Pregnancy Center accompanies mothers up until their babies are age 2. They offer parenting classes, financing, and child development. Classes are held at JMJ or the Lifting Lives Center. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

ORLANDO  |  After decades of deep prayer for an affirmation of the dignity of life, Catholics around the country, and other pro-lifers rejoiced at the June 8, 2022, U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The decision overturned Roe v Wade, but the “win” comes with new obstacles.

Chloé Battle, center director of JMJ Pregnancy Center in Orlando, and Tina Stafstrom, director of Maitland’s Life Choices Medical Clinic, both confirm the extraordinary lengths to which companies have exercised their muscle to assure less women choose life. Besides the swarm of news stories touting the decision of more than 100 companies offering to pay for travel for those seeking an abortion, barely a news outlet is covering other tactics like high-priced advertising on behalf of abortion companies stating pregnancy clinics are lying and are only interested in making you have a baby.

As crisis pregnancy centers around the country noticed a drop in clients, the investigation uncovered several search engines changed their classification labels “from Women’s Health Clinic to a pregnancy resource center,” said Battle. The change is significant because pregnancy resource centers basically provide women in need with diapers, baby food, formula and little else, unlike agencies such as JMJ and Life Choices which accompany families for up to two years, providing support the entire way.


A screenshot of one of JMJ Pregnancy Center’s landing pages. The online platform added an unsolicited notice that it does not offer abortions.

Battle also noted a large label was added to each of JMJ’s three landing pages that said, “Does not provide abortions.” Later it was modified to be more subdued, and said, “This is a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Crisis Pregnancy Centers do not offer abortions or referrals to abortion providers.” She said the new, unrequested labeling prompts abortion-vulnerable young women to skip over their clinic.

“Planned Parenthood has spent a lot of money advertising online,” Battle said. “(Search engines) and other spaces are going deliberately after pregnancy centers, ad after ad.” She explained search results take you to landing pages on abortion clinic websites that say, “Beware. Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Why should you beware?’” Then they list various reasons that are not true.”

Unfortunately, small non-profits like JMJ and Life Choices don’t have the capital to fight through advertising. Instead, they are changing their approach explaining the fact that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage so an abortion may not even be needed. They urge women to come in and check the viability before having an unnecessary abortion.

Life Choices is currently working with a non-profit using fairly new technology to combat false advertising across various digital platforms. They hope Life Choices will be their prototype to build similar models for other centers.

And harassment doesn’t end with advertising. Life Choices shares an exit driveway with the abortion clinic next door. Prayer warriors and counselors frequently stand in front of the clinic quietly praying. After Roe was overturned, “Clinic escorts” showed up. They brought signs, banners and flags, staging them along the public space in front of Life Choices. They blare loud music and body block those wishing to receive information. Stafstrom says it “ramped up” since 40 Days for Life began Feb. 22.

Bill Adamson, one of those praying on the sidewalk, remembers a different situation prior to the Dobbs decision. “There were never this many people and there were no flags or signs on our side. But the property edge is now public, so they have added flags and banners.” As of the start of 40 Days for Life, Adamson comes an extra day to be a sort of “bodyguard” for those desiring to go into Life Choices and for the women praying for the doctors, the staff, families, and babies who will be lost.

All of these tactics point to what both JMJ and Life Choices directors note as the prime necessity — for the community to understand what pregnancy clinics do.

“Every pregnancy clinic has Christian values they choose to abide by,” Stafstrom says. As a Catholic clinic, “We serve everybody here. We speak the truth with love and we do share that aspect of teaching on contraception, on the sanctity of life. I think people appreciate hearing it and receiving knowledge and information, being more informed.” Their focus is to help the abortion minded and abortion vulnerable to make a decision for life and to accompany them in the process, often for up to two years if they choose, with parenting and finance classes, and other needs specific to their situation. The idea is to treat the source so the cycle is not repeated.

As Bob Perron, JMJ executive director, explained, “The pregnancy is not the crisis. It’s a gift. The crisis is whatever got them here.”

Another issue JMJ and Life Choices’ face is their clients are extremely uninformed. They haven’t taken a pregnancy test or seen a doctor. They are ordering the RU486 abortion pills online from dubious sources, even after the 10-week FDA suggested limit. Many get whatever they can, from wherever they can. “This lack of instruction and information, important to understanding how the pills work, can lead to dangerous consequences,” Stafstrom notes.

One woman who went to JMJ thought she was five or six weeks pregnant. She procured the RU486 pills and took the first one thinking she was within the 10-week limit. An ultrasound revealed she was 21 weeks pregnant.

“Fear and unexpected timing are the biggest reasons people are making life and death decisions,” said Stafstrom. “And, not having truly a safe place to speak about their concerns, where they’re not going to be judged, where there is no pressure  — a safe place to take and share their fears, get information and process to make a more loving and life-giving decision for themselves and for their child.”

Both Battle and Stafstrom encourage clients to have an ultrasound because, “It’s hard to unsee a baby, to unhear a heartbeat on the Doppler (ultrasound),” Battle said. In fact, the odds of choosing life after an ultrasound is 90%. They also share their faith when the opportunity presents itself and they pray with every client.

Meanwhile, Battle and Bob Perron go to Catholic schools and teach the RCL Benzinger Family Life course curriculum with an introduction to Theology of the Body to fifth and eighth graders. It includes family life crisis, reproductive cycles and more, based on the diocesan curriculum.

They believe it’s important to educate families at the parish level, in Catholic schools, and reach youth groups.

“If we really want to change hearts and minds, we need to do it in our own village first,” Battle said.  “We can start by talking about it.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, March 17, 2023