Mother and Baby Friendly Developments
Philadelphia is becoming a more mom and baby friendly place. Dozens of businesses are now breastfeeding-friendly workplaces. All the city hospitals agreed to stop distributing free infant formula. Attempting to build a breastfeeding-friendly culture is worthwhile, because breast milk is considered the best food for newborns. These developments could lead one to conclude that Philadelphia must highly value its youngest citizens. But there’s a confusing flip-side to this rosy picture.
Housing Crisis Contributes to Abortion Decisions
Maternal and infant mortality rates in Philadelphia are similar to that of developing countries due to the high rate of poverty, especially among black and Latino populations. According to the last census, approximately 27% of our legal residents are living on less than $15 per day, some on half of that. For vast numbers of vulnerable, single-parent families, safe housing is not a reality. In Philadelphia, for a time, the waiting list for subsidized housing was in a holding pattern, hovering at an 8-year wait, until the waiting list was closed, indefinitely. Many read that as “no hope.”
In 1981 when Alpha Pregnancy Services began, the primary reason women called us was for a free pregnancy test. Now, 34 years and 12,000 families later, the number one reason women call is to attempt to find a safe place for them and their children to live. The extreme lack of affordable, safe housing in Philadelphia increases the likelihood a woman will choose abortion. Even a woman who is morally opposed to abortion will make this tough choice if she can’t figure out how she can provide a home for her child. No one can say how many of the 15, 986 lives lost due to abortion in 2013 in Philadelphia would have been spared if the mothers had a safe place to live.
Alpha Pregnancy Services Provides Hope and Help
Alpha exists to provide life-affirming hope and help to women and families in need due to pregnancy and related issues. We provide free assistance from our professional staff of registered nurses and social workers. The over-arching goal is to establish a positive outlook and the best possible future for the mother and for her baby. Alpha’s reputation as a trustworthy social service agency is confirmed by the fact that many of our mothers have been referred for services by their friends, family, pastors, health care or insurance providers, hospital social workers, school nurses, and guidance counselors. Although we don’t provide housing, Alpha staff members routinely advocate for our mothers, helping them access housing by guiding them to places with availability and making referrals.
Other Important Caring Services
Post-abortion forgiveness and healing by God is a serious need for many women (and men). Abortion has been legal for 42 years and nearly 60 million procedures have been performed in America. Locally, we conservatively estimate that nearly 400,000 individuals in the Philadelphia area would benefit from abortion after-care support. Our next group session of “Surrendering the Secret” begins on February 3.
To prevent unplanned pregnancies and promote healthy, God-honoring lifestyles, particularly with regard to sexuality, Alpha also participates in health fairs and offers programs for young people in schools and churches.
Who Pays for All of This?
Alpha’s services are provided at no cost. This builds trust with the mothers as they realize that we simply and passionately desire to help them, not to profit from their situations. Whenever possible, we share the gospel and encourage the mothers to consider the value of prayer, church attendance, and spiritual development. This foundational aspect of our ministry makes Alpha ineligible for government funding. However, being dependent upon the Lord also allows us the freedom to offer faith-based strategies to problem solving. (Many conclude that prayer works!) We serve mothers from all walks of life without discrimination, but we do not hide the fact that we operate from a Christian framework.
As the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is celebrated or mourned, Alpha will be answering anxious calls from vulnerable women just as we have been for the past 34 years. One type of call beats all the rest: A young woman, calling from the hospital while holding her infant saying “I never knew I could love another person this much. Thank you so much for everything!!!” Participating in this unspeakable joy never gets old.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Karen Hess. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org