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In 1977, when Wanda Kohn was 17, she had an abortion. Later she became a Christian, repented of what she had done, went through training, and began counseling women in an abortion recovery group at the Pregnancy Care Center in Leesburg, Fla. She was WORLD’s 2007 Daniel of the Year honoree, representing the tens of thousands of pro-life counselors, and has directed the Leesburg center for 17 years. Here are edited excerpts of our conversation.
When you were growing up, did you ever think you’d be a pregnancy care center director? No. I never had been a baby person. Everyone made me scared to death of kids when I was little by telling me not to touch them and to be careful not to hurt them. I never ever thought my life would be focused on helping to protect the lives of these unborn babies. God definitely took me out of my comfort zone.
How did your abortion sorrow figure into your counseling? I wanted to give women something that I hadn’t had: counsel that brought God into the equation. I wanted an opportunity to use my experience to help other women facing a crisis walk through it in a healthier way than I did—so they don’t regret their decision after the fact, when it’s too late, which is what happened to me. I think if someone had talked to me the way people do here, I wouldn’t have made that choice.
What services do you provide? Forty percent of our clients come to us for pregnancy testing. One out of 10 of those come to us saying they want an abortion. A much higher percentage are considering abortion. If a crisis client comes in, that is our priority. Everything else stops.
When you don’t have a crisis client? We focus mainly on material needs like diapers, food, or paying the bills. We have helped place homeless elderly people, driven abused women to a domestic violence shelter, ministered to those battling addiction, given rides to doctor appointments, or paid for a family’s bus tickets. We’ve helped place children for adoption. We also offer parenting classes—one weekly class accepted by the state for court-ordered parents who have lost custody of their children. We’ve offered these classes to male and female inmates in our county’s correctional facility for almost 20 years. We share the gospel at every opportunity. This year, at least 17 people have professed faith in Christ through this ministry.
What kind of clients do you see? People come in spurts. Recently we were very involved in helping one young pregnant girl. She lived in a travel trailer with her two siblings and her mom, who was a drug addict. The girl was here almost every day. We helped drive her to school. We gave her family food. We gave her school supplies. Getting involved with these people’s lives gets messy. It’s not just about getting them to keep their babies and telling them to have a nice life. If you really care about them, you’ll support them through these hardships.
Do men come in? Unplanned pregnancies affect a lot of dads too. One man came in for his girlfriend to get some information for her about getting an abortion. By the time he left, he said, “So you’re telling me I need to man up?” I said, “Basically, yeah.” Two weeks later, he came back and said, “Well, I did. I manned up. We’re keeping the baby.”
Do you ever know what happens to people who only come during their period of intense need? I recently received a phone call from a woman who wanted to donate some baby clothes and baby food. She came to us seven years ago, when she was 17, scared, and pregnant. She chose to keep that baby and now has two more. She said she appreciated the way we treated her and she wanted to give back to the center because of the help we had given her.
What has changed with pregnancy centers since you first started? They have a greater diversity of services for women. More pregnancy centers have ultrasound machines, STD testing, and risk avoidance education. At least one center in Florida even has a birthing center. These expanded services attract more women to come in—even those who are not currently in a crisis pregnancy but may be down the road. By educating and ministering to them early on, we can help prevent them from immediately choosing abortion when they do hit that crisis.
What do you think of those pregnancy centers that are starting to introduce contraceptives? That sounds like muddy water. A lot of contraceptives are abortifacients, so I would hope they’re not including those kinds. The other issue is that, if you give a girl contraceptives, she is likely to have more sex because she thinks she’s protected. But there really aren’t any contraceptives that are 100 percent foolproof. Only abstinence can guarantee that you’re not going to get an STD or become pregnant.
Are you encouraged or discouraged by trends in the pro-life movement during the last two decades? In Florida, pregnancy centers have increased and abortion mills have decreased in numbers. In Orlando, 10 years ago, there were six mills and now there are only three. Because of growth like this, pregnancy centers are now able to serve more women. We can have all the bills and all the laws we want. But we won’t see true change until we change the hearts of the people, which is partly what we try to do at the pregnancy center. When someone comes in here, politics hardly ever comes into the conversation.