Georgetown center offers support for pregnancies
For women facing an unexpected or crisis pregnancy, it can feel like they are all alone at a time of their lives that is supposed to be joyous. The Sussex Pregnancy Care Center has been in Georgetown for almost 25 years now, serving between 1,300 and 1,400 women and families each year, offering services such as free pregnancy tests and verification by sonogram, educational classes and support for the decision to have a child.
“It started with a handful of concerned people in the area who wanted to do more,” said Executive Director Rita Denney. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Abortion is wrong,’ but then what are you going to do about it? You have to help the people who feel they have no other choice.”
After renting space at Race and Bedford Streets, the abortion alternatives group found their permanent home on Burger King Drive (behind the Burger King) off of Route 113 in Georgetown and have been there since 1999. They employ three full-time and one part-time staff members and have about 135 volunteers doing everything from the sonograms to counseling to answering the phones.
“Even our doctor is a volunteer,” said Denney, referring to Dr. Wesley Page, who donates time once a month to do the ultrasounds. “We couldn’t exist without them.”
Women and girls who call can get a free pregnancy test and pregnancy verification, which sometimes is all the service they need, or they can continue with the program until after their baby is a year old and beyond.
The center’s Caring Hearts Program offers clients the ability to earn points to shop at their “Robin’s Nest” shop by watching videos, reading certain books and attending classes. The shop is a room filled with both new and gently-used baby items, such as clothes and strollers, and new items, such as diapers and car seats. The center also offers maternity clothes for free.
Because there is no federal funding and the center operates mostly with support from individuals, business, churches and their four yearly fundraisers, there are no income guidelines for the women who call, although most make less than $20,000, according to Denney. “If a woman called and she made $100,000, we would help her, because we don’t care; but, obviously, we don’t get a lot of those calls.”
After the women initially call the center, consultants may ask them if they have a religious preference and offer encouragement “at whatever spiritual level they are.” Their main goal, according to Denney, is to be there to help them through the pregnancy, and to be a listening ear, but they also touch on subjects like marriage and encourage them to think about the benefits of raising children within marriage.
Because the subject of abortion does come up and they are asked about it — Denney said 191 of the calls last year where from women who wanted information on where or how to obtain one — another one of the group’s programs is a PACE (Post Abortion Counseling and Education) group that works with woman who have already had abortions and are now struggling with it, dealing with steps of grief and healing.
“Often, with abortion, there’s a sense of relief, but it doesn’t last long. And many times with grief, it gets better with time, but we have found that that doesn’t happen with abortion,” said Denny. “Often it’s 15, 20, 30, 40 years later, and it is still an issue, and woman need to hear that they have had a loss and they have the right to grieve it.”
If a woman who calls wants to know where she can obtain an abortion, Denney said they will offer any help and support they can for carrying the pregnancy to term but do not refer women for abortion services.
“I can’t in good conscience refer them, because it’s a little life in there — that’s my opinion. If they go ahead and do it, we are not going to beat them over the head about it — that’s why we have the [PACE] recovery program.”
Denney also offered that, many times during her tenure at a Frederick, Md., Pregnancy Care Center, where she was more involved with direct counseling, she would ask women if abortion were not legal would they consider it.
“We would see 30 or 40 woman a month, and I only ever had one that said she would do it no matter what. Most of them wouldn’t. There was a study done on the attitude toward abortion in Delaware, and it said that of the woman who consider abortion, one in two will change their mind,” said Denney. “I was surprised to hear that.”
“The biggest difference in our effectiveness was when we got sonogram capabilities,” she continued. “The picture says a lot. It helps the girls to realize there is a life in there, and they need to eat right and exercise and take care of it.”
The Sussex Pregnancy Care Center’s free services include a pregnancy test, sonogram for verification of pregnancy, information on all options, including the group’s stance on abortion, adoption and parenting, pregnancy and life decisions support counseling, material assistance for expectant parents, maternity housing referrals, parenting and childbirth classes, mothers and fathers support groups, and post-abortion counseling and education.
They are affiliated with Care Net, a non-profit organization that supports pregnancy centers across the U.S. and Canada; Heartbeat International, a non-political, Christian association of education and pregnancy service providers; and NIFLA, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.
For more information, call (302) 856-4344 or visit www.sussexpregnancy.com online.