Pregnancy resource centers offer practical and moral support to pregnant women, often facing unexpected pregnancies. While services can vary from place to place, they generally hold parenting classes, offer sonograms and pregnancy tests, give away baby items, and counsel pregnant mothers. Some help women pay for their doctor’s appointments, such as Choose Life Midland, or give pregnant mothers a place to stay, such as Living Alternatives in Tyler.
One leader at Living Alternatives, Lorin Roncancio, said interest in volunteering has outpaced interest in the center’s services themselves.
“That has been the biggest change,” Roncancio said.
“I talked to the director of our pregnancy resource center, and he said they’ve probably done 20 to 25 just tours — when someone wants to volunteer, we say, ‘come meet us, we’ll give you a tour’ — and he’s probably done 25 in the last two weeks. Probably in the last 10 days.”
Roncancio said alongside eager volunteers, she has noticed an increase in financial donations, interest from churches asking for presentations, and gifted baby items.
According to Roncancio, Living Alternatives plans to expand its maternity home to make room for women that have had their babies, in addition to the pregnant women currently being served.
On the other side of the state, one worker at a Lubbock pregnancy resource center told a similar story about local enthusiasm for helping pregnant women.
Laura Garcia of the Nurturing Center said the nonprofit has received more donations from more donors in recent weeks.
“We’ve seen an increase in donations and donors, people who want to help out because of, I guess, the overturn of Roe v. Wade. And because of that, our Facebook and advertisements have been more shared. Our posts have been more shared and liked and everything. So more people have been reached in our Lubbock community, and more people have reached out to us,” Garcia said.
“We’ve seen an increase in clients wanting to come to our center to get help with baby items, mainly. So more low-income clients that want to receive baby items. We definitely do offer a lot of those to help out with the babies’ needs. So we’ve seen an increase in that.”
However, pregnancy resource centers in Lubbock are in a unique situation.
In May 2021, Lubbock became the 24th city in Texas to ban abortion, joining a group of towns calling themselves “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.” However, it remains the only such city with a Planned Parenthood in city limits.
Abortions stopped abruptly in Lubbock after the ordinance was passed, threatening civil and municipal penalties for anyone besides the mother herself that attempts an elective abortion.
Garcia remembers an increase in clients around the time Lubbock outlawed abortion.
“We get a lot of clients that do want to keep their baby, but amongst those, of course, there are those that are looking at their choices and maybe thinking about abortion or adoption,” Garcia said.
“So in the midst of the increase we have had a slight increase in abortion-minded clients, I would say, since the Lubbock sanctuary city [ordinance].”
The “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” effort has since grown to include 44 cities in Texas and a handful elsewhere. Voters in several Texas towns, including San Angelo, will vote on local abortion bans in the November general election.
One San Angelo citizen that worked with others to put the ordinance on the city council’s agenda is Stephanie Socha, who coordinates pro-life resources and activities for the San Angelo area of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Angelo. The diocese includes Midland, Odessa, and other nearby towns.
Although Socha said she expects a rise in women seeking services, she added that the Dobbs decision did not materially change the services that area Catholics have long provided and supported.
“If anything, [Dobbs] has heightened our need to be helpful, be the light of Christ and be helpful to support our local pregnancy center, Project Rachel,” Socha said.
While most pregnancy resource centers in the area are not religiously affiliated, the local Project Rachel chapter is a direct project of the Diocese of San Angelo. An expressly religious endeavor, the center focuses on counseling for women that have had abortions.
Meanwhile, most of the cribs, sonograms, pregnancy tests, and diapers in the area come from nonprofit organizations like the Pregnancy Help Center of Concho Valley, reliant on donors and volunteers.
The State of Texas does contribute to a network of pregnancy resource centers as part of the Alternatives to Abortion program. Four contractors work with the state to run centers around Texas: Austin LifeCare, Longview Wellness Center, The Pregnancy Network, and Texas Pregnancy Care Network.
The legislature increased the funds for Alternatives to Abortion by more than 60 percent last year. The 2019 budget allotted about $60 million to the program over a two-year period and the 2021 budget increased program funds past $100 million.
This funding hike accompanied several major new abortion laws, such as the Texas Heartbeat Act, the Human Life Protection Act, and a law banning the delivery of abortifacient drugs by mail.
With the new funding, the legislature also raised its expectations of how many clients and patients the centers should serve. In the 86th legislative session, the legislature set a target of 96,646 clients for 2020 and 102,183 for 2021. In the 87th session, the target number jumped up to 149,866 served each year.
Additionally, the state’s old abortion ban that went unenforced since 1973 regained effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, immediately authorizing district attorneys to punish doctors that perform elective abortions.
Despite her support for the ban, Socha said it only whets the need for pregnancy aid.
“So it basically shuts down abortion in Texas, which is incredible,” Socha said.
“It’s a miracle. It’s wonderful. But it doesn’t do away with people who have crisis pregnancies and need help.”
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