Claudette was single and pregnant. She felt hurt, angry and confused, so she made an appointment at Sacramento’s Alternatives Pregnancy Center. “I didn’t know if I was going to keep the baby,” she says. “When I got to the center, I was feeling desperate, and I was looking for help and love and attention.”
After meetings with a counselor, Claudette decided to give birth and raise her daughter, Jessica, who is now 8.
Alternatives Pregnancy Center (APC) offers pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and “options” counseling. It receives no government funding and relies solely on donations.
“We don’t charge a dime to anybody for any of our services,” says director Tricia Lewis. “Because we offer free pregnancy verifications, we tend to draw clients who have no health insurance or need to get on MediCal. We also see underage girls or girls in college who don’t want to take a pregnancy test at their doctor’s office and have someone in the family find out about it through billing.”
When Jessica was 1, Claudette found herself pregnant again. She decided to abort. “There was no other way. I wasn’t going to have another baby,” she says.
Wracked with guilt, she returned to APC after the abortion for support and guidance. Her counselor suggested she attend a church-sponsored Hope Encounter Weekend for post-abortion healing, she remembers leaving the retreat “with a light heart.”
APC also offers a parenting program, which guides moms-to-be, couples and families through pregnancy and their baby’s first year of life. Participants meet with a counselor once a month and learn parenting skills. For that, they earn points that can be used as currency at the organization’s “Nursery Nook” for diapers, baby clothing, formula and other necessities.
Most of the women who turn to the Alternatives Pregnancy Center are 18 to 24 years old and approximately 1,500 women are seen at the clinic each year.
“Sometimes women facing an unplanned pregnancy have life plans. Sometimes the pregnancy is a surprise,” Lewis says. “We talk about abortion, adoption and parenting, and while we do not provide or refer for abortions, we do give them medically accurate information so that they can make a choice that is not just based on the emotion of the moment.”
The pregnancy center is staffed primarily by volunteers, and its mission is threefold: prevention (going into schools and churches with its sexual health and integrity program), intervention (pregnancy tests and ultrasounds at the clinic) and recovery (often helping women find post-abortion resources
Lewis hopes to have a mobile unit in operation in the next couple of years, offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds in underserved areas around Sacramento.
Though a new rapid rehousing initiative may stymy the troubling trend locally, some providers remain concerned that a lack of mandatory supportive services and intensive case management may cause the program to exacerbate, not eliminate, the problem.
In 2004, 28-year-old Kimberly Kaufman learned she had congestive heart failure.