Misunderstanding of pregnancy centers' mission seen as a reason for attacks
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Angela Franey, executive director of Abria Pregnancy Resources, said recent vandalism at the organization's St. Paul location and dozens of similar attacks on pregnancy centers around the country reflect recent anger and misunderstanding around the issue of abortion.
She also believes the damage also stems from a misunderstanding of the mission of Abria and other like centers.
Abria's staff love and help women, she said, and provide a variety of information so they know they have options.
"We never tell them what to do," she said, but instead, offer them information to help make a fully informed decision. "And we respect their ability to do that," she told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers, like Abria, as well as churches have taken place across the country since early May, when a draft opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization case was leaked.
The court's June 24 decision in the Dobbs case ultimately overturned Roe v. Wade, which had legalized abortion nationwide. The new ruling allows states to decide their own laws regarding abortion.
To date, there have been about 40 such attacks on centers and churches, and Jane's Revenge has claimed responsibility for many of them. Described as "a militant, extremist, pro-abortion rights group," it was formed shortly after the leak of the draft opinion.
Since the Supreme Court's decision, there also have been calls nationwide to crack down legislatively on pregnancy care centers that some believe deceive women.
When Abria was targeted by vandals Aug. 1, it was the first time the center had been attacked. That morning when Franey entered the back door of the center about 7:30 a.m., she found a softball-sized rock in the hallway that appeared to have been thrown through glass in both front doors.
Looking at the front of the building, she saw in red spray paint the words: "If abortions aren't safe, neither are you."
No one has claimed responsibility for the actions, Franey said, which were reported to and were being investigated by the police.
Abria remained closed Aug. 1 as staff cleaned up. But the center opened as usual Aug. 2.
"It's safe now and no one was hurt," Franey said. "Our goal is to make things safe and secure again, to pick up the pieces, to meet the challenge face to face and continue to overcome these things with good, because that's what we do."
Abria, which also has a location in Minneapolis, offers lab-quality tests, ultrasounds performed by trained medical personnel, medical consultation, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Non-medical services include pregnancy and parenting education, personal support services, life coaching, material assistance, referrals to community resources and more. All at no charge.
If women choose life, Abria helps make it possible, Franey said, with baby supplies, education and referrals to community resources. If people knew Abria's mission, Franey does not believe individuals would turn as much to violence.
Abria receives some funding from the Catholic Services Appeal Foundation in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and none from the government. About 90% of its funding comes from individual donors, Franey said.
More recently, vandals attacked a western Massachusetts pregnancy center that provides women facing a crisis pregnancy with free diapers, wipes, baby clothes, strollers and car seats.
Early Aug. 18, vandals spray-painted "Jane's Revenge" on benches located outside of Bethlehem House in Easthampton, near Springfield, along with the same message left at the St. Paul center: "If abortion isn't safe, neither are you."
Bethlehem House, which receives support from the annual Catholic Appeal of the Diocese of Springfield, also offers free pregnancy resources, including referrals for employment, health care and educational services. Families receive assistance until the baby is 18 months old. In addition, Bethlehem House offers post-abortion counseling.
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Umberger is on the staff of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.