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Inside the outbreak: Protecting pregnancies

Coronavirus shutdowns are leaving pro-life clinics with fewer patients and more questions

Inside the outbreak: Protecting pregnancies

(FatCamera/iStock)

Pro-life clinics in the San Francisco Bay area have already lost important fundraising opportunities and clients in a matter of weeks. Now, they hope to remain open.

“Our clients are making life-and-death decisions that cannot be postponed,” Support Circle executive director Albert Lee said.

On Monday, public health officials in six Bay area counties announced a “shelter in place” order, the strictest measure of its kind in the country, part of an effort to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19. That same day, after an unusually quiet previous week, an influx of women visited Support Circle’s three Bay area locations, which offer pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, nurse consultations, and referrals. One patient told staff, “This has given me strength to keep fighting.”

Women facing unplanned pregnancies need strength now more than ever to choose life for their unborn babies. Support Circle plans to stay open, and Lee said since they provide medical services, patients will be allowed to schedule visits. But they are already cutting expenses after postponing their annual fundraising gala, originally planned for March 28. The event provides one-third of Support Circle’s annual budget. Now, Lee says, “We’re reaching out to donors and assessing what it will look like.”

In Santa Rosa, Calif., Bridges Pregnancy Clinic and Care Center also remained open, maintaining its regular operating hours four days a week. But it’s unusually quiet. Eleven patients scheduled appointments on Wednesday, but only one showed up. “That’s not typical,” said executive director Jenny Lynn Olson. The center already asked its volunteers to stay home (many are over age 60), postponed plans to start testing for sexually transmitted infections, and suspended visits to its boutique, a place for expectant mothers to shop for baby and maternity clothing. Women can still get diapers there.

Olson is concerned COVID-19 is only compounding women’s fears about their unplanned pregnancies and could push them to abort. She said Bridges is proactively advertising on social media, urging women to contact them and “not let fear motivate their decision.”

Staff at Alpha Pregnancy Center in San Francisco started their day Monday with prayer, like they always do. This week, the petitions were pressing: “First and foremost, we prayed that Lord-willing we would be able to stay open,” executive director Faith Paull said. Staff members felt conflicted about how they can keep employees, volunteers and clients safe, while also providing women necessary and vital resources and “time and space to talk.”

Alpha has already seen a sharp decline in patients: Normally, they see up to four patients a day for pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and nurse consultations. Last week they had only one medical appointment, which raises questions for Paull: “Our main concern is: Where are we going to leave our clients in all of this?”

Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson

Mary is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute mid-career course and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and four children. Follow Mary on Twitter @mbjackson77