Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Maternity homes cautiously reopen

Life | How pro-life ministries adapted to the limits of the quarantine
by Leah Hickman
Posted 5/18/20, 05:46 pm

When the coronavirus crisis hit the United States two months ago, Maggie’s Place, a pro-life maternity home in Cleveland, had to shut down.

“We can’t risk the moms’ safety and the health of the women here,” Regional Director Erin Hathaway said in March, noting that one of her pregnant residents had a history of health issues that made her especially susceptible to COVID-19. “She’s not even leaving her room a lot of the time. It’s debilitating, honestly.”

In the middle of our conversation, Hathaway put me on hold to answer another line.

“That was actually a call from someone that I had to say no to because of the coronavirus,” she said. “It’s hitting us hard.”

Now that Ohio is beginning to lift public health restrictions, Hathaway and her staff are exploring options for reopening Maggie’s Place in June. Other pro-life maternity homes across the country are trying creative methods to bring in new residents, while others barely stopped in the first place. Many homes want to help already vulnerable women cope with the tough situations brought on by the pandemic.

Pro-life maternity homes provide mothers with temporary free housing during and after their pregnancies, sometimes up to a couple of years after they give birth. The programs then help the new mothers find housing and community resources when they move out. Many of these women would become homeless without assistance.

When the virus first struck, the Maryland-based Gabriel Network took 10 days to evaluate the best way to protect current residents while still receiving new women. It decided to resume operations by housing incoming residents at a nearby hotel.

“Once a woman has been accepted into the program, she moves into that hotel for two weeks and monitors her temperature and kind of keeps to herself,” said Stephen Wallace, Gabriel Network’s executive director and chairman for Heartbeat International’s Maternity Housing Coalition. “If everything is good, she’ll move into the home after that.”

One maternity housing program in Texas parked a donor’s recreational vehicle in the front yard of one of the homes for women to live in under quarantine. A hotel in Fredericksburg, Va., offered to house women from a local maternity program and serve them breakfast for $45 a day per woman.

That program—Mary’s Shelter—offers financial support so women can afford to live on their own. “We’ve paid car payments,” said Executive Director Kathleen Wilson. “We’ve given them food money. We’ve tried to help women stay where they are.”

Wilson noticed that the women who came to Mary’s Shelter during the pandemic had bigger concerns than COVID-19: “What’s really odd to me is not many of them actually talk about the coronavirus. But what I have heard … more than any time before, people are saying, ‘I’m being forced to abort.’” She said this pressure stems from the financial strain many families are experiencing during the pandemic.

Wallace said the Gabriel Network initially saw a dip in housing requests in March and April, but they’ve already seen call volume increase this month. Other maternity homes in Heartbeat International’s nationwide coalition have witnessed the same trend.

“[With] a lot of people being out of work and the way that’s going to exacerbate difficult family relationships and preexisting vulnerability, we’d expect there to be a lot of need,” he said.

Both the Gabriel Network and Mary’s Shelter had to cancel major donor events and replace them with online fundraisers because of the coronavirus. So far, donations haven’t dipped far below what they see in a normal year.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about how it’s going to play out over the next year, like the rest of the economy,” Wallace said. “God wants this work to happen, and He’ll provide. But it’s definitely a challenge right now.”

Associated Press/Photo by Pat Sullivan (file) Associated Press/Photo by Pat Sullivan (file) David Daleiden (right) and his attorney Jared Woodfill leave a Houston courtroom in April 2016.

Pro-life counterattack

Pro-life activist David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress are suing U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, also a Democrat; and Planned Parenthood for conspiracy to violate his free speech rights. The lawsuit claims the defendants singled out Daleiden for prosecution because his undercover videos found incriminating evidence against Planned Parenthood.

Becerra—and Harris as his predecessor in the state’s attorney general’s office—claims Daleiden broke video recording laws by secretly taking footage of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal body parts at restaurants and exhibit halls. But Daleiden’s defense points out that the statute excludes “communication made in a public gathering.”

The case against Daleiden, the lawsuit says, made him “the first journalist ever to be criminally prosecuted under California’s recording law.” It alleges Harris secretly met with Planned Parenthood executives in 2016 to discuss the videos as a part of a political agenda. Two weeks later, the California Department of Justice seized personal computers and other equipment from Daleiden’s home.

Becerra charged Daleiden and his CMP colleague Sandra Merritt with criminal activity in 2017. They pleaded not guilty to the felony counts in February. Daleiden and Merritt could face up to a decade in prison if convicted. —L.H.

Facebook/40 Days for Life, Lafayette, Ind. Facebook/40 Days for Life, Lafayette, Ind. Pro-life demonstrators outside Planned Parenthood in Lafayette, Ind.

No license to kill

Pro-life advocates have asked authorities to investigate allegations of unlicensed surgical abortions at a Planned Parenthood location in Lafayette, Ind. The facility “is not set-up to meet the physical building and safety standards required for surgical abortions,” said Kevin Niebrugge, president of Tippecanoe County Right to Life. His group discovered documentation of those abortions during a regular review of Planned Parenthood reports and made the findings public last week. Niebrugge filed complaints with Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, a Republican, and the Indiana State Department of Health.

The Planned Parenthood affiliate’s medical director, Deborah Nucatola, signed the paperwork for the two procedures in March. Nucatola previously worked as the senior director of medical services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and appeared in the first undercover video David Daleiden released in 2015. The footage shows her eating a salad while discussing how to remove unborn baby body parts strategically for use in scientific research. —L.H.

Legally “nonviable” baby survives

A baby born four months early at 22 weeks and weighing 1 lb., 2 oz., went home this month after five months in a U.K. hospital. British law does not protect babies from abortion before 24 weeks of gestation, the age lawmakers arbitrarily chose as the point when a baby becomes “viable” outside of the womb.

The child, Lilly Menear, needed a ventilator in the neonatal intensive care unit and had three infections, a brain bleed, and a distended intestine during her stay. Doctors told her parents not to expect their daughter to survive, but medical advances saved her life.

“We took each day as it came,” said her mother, Tayla Menear. “She reacts to my voice and will open her eyes when I come in and talk to her. She gives me big, beautiful smiles.” —L.H.

Adopted and adorable

Gerber named an adopted baby the winner of its photo contest for the first time since the competition began in 2010. A panel chose the 2020 Gerber spokesbaby Magnolia Earl from among more than 327,000 entries. She has two older sisters her parents also adopted.

Her mother, Courtney Earl, said winning the contest “is an opportunity to tell Magnolia’s story and shed light on all the beautiful and different ways families are made.” —L.H.

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Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

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    Posted: Tue, 05/19/2020 07:30 pm

    Magnolia is SO cute!

    Posted: Tue, 05/19/2020 10:45 pm

    She is indeed a charmer! Thanks, Leah, for the link to Magnolia's story.