Moms Who Chose Life Over Abortion Become Activists on Capitol Hill

By Penny Starr | October 18, 2010 | 5:49 PM EDT

Danica Fountain ( Starr)

( – On a recent summer afternoon, Danica Fountain was spending time with her eight-year-old daughter, Aaliyah Sanchez, but the pair was not relaxing at home or shopping at a nearby mall. Fountain and her daughter were on Capitol Hill lobbying members of Congress about the work done by pregnancy resource centers across the nation.

The visit came in the wake of the release of a report by NARAL Pro-Choice America’s California affiliate that accuses pregnancy resource centers of convincing women not to have an abortion by apparently using inaccurate medical information and untrained volunteers who use intimidation techniques. (NARAL was formerly called the National Abortion Rights Action League and, originally, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.)

“I really didn’t realize how much people do not know about pregnancy centers,” Fountain told “And now that they are under attack, I really do want the senators and members of Congress to know the truth and to continue to support them.”

“There are so many women out there who are making the decision to abort because they don’t know there are other options and no one is supporting them with those other options,” said Fountain, who considered aborting her daughter because of the pressures of an unplanned pregnancy.

The NARAL report, “Unmasking Fake Clinics: The Truth About Crisis Pregnancy Centers in California,” is the fourth released by the abortion advocacy group in recent years. NARAL previously published reports in three other states: Maryland (February 2008), Texas (July 2009) and Virginia (January 2010).

In the latest report, NARAL claims to have investigated 32 of the approximately 200 pregnancy resource centers in California by having unpaid volunteers visit or telephone the centers for advice on their “unplanned pregnancy.”

Fountain recalls distinctly her first visit to a pregnancy resource center near the home where she lived with her grandparents in Arizona. She was 18 and had just graduated from high school.

“I remembered driving by this house several times before and seeing the free pregnancy test sign,” Fountain told “So I went there so that no one could see me and I wouldn’t have to hide tests when I got home.”

Fountain told the woman at the center that if she was pregnant, she planned to get an abortion.

“She was so nice,” Fountain said. “She did not judge me at all.”

The woman asked Fountain if she would consider options other than abortion and if she wanted to see the developmental stages of the fetus in the first trimester.

“She showed me a picture of this baby that had arms and legs and a head,” Fountain said. “I couldn’t believe it because everyone referred to that as ‘tissue,’ that it was not a baby, which is why I was comfortable going through with an abortion.”

“I was shocked” by the picture, Fountain said.

Still, she believed abortion was the only option for an unmarried 18-year-old with only a high school education and no livelihood. Fountain’s boyfriend wanted her to have an abortion and even a trusted relative convinced her it was the only option if she wanted to go to college and achieve other goals she had, such as dancing professionally and traveling around the world.

So Fountain and her relative went to a Planned Parenthood clinic where she was advised in the waiting room as she spoke to a receptionist.

“Everyone in the room heard everything we were talking about,” Fountain said. “I was ashamed. I didn’t want everyone to know why I was there.”

The receptionist informed Fountain that the longer she waited, the more expensive an abortion would be, and the receptionist did not talk to her about adoption or parenting before the abortion was scheduled.

“That was it,” Fountain said. “I had a card with a date and a time, and that’s how we left.”

Fountain remembered that the woman at the pregnancy resource center said she could come back anytime she wanted to talk about alternatives to abortion.

“I went back for the ultrasound, and I saw her heart beating,” Fountain said of her unborn daughter, Aaliyah. “That made it so real to me, that it wasn’t just tissue.

“It wasn’t something they could get rid of, that it was a baby,” Fountain said.

Today, Fountain’s daughter is a happy and beautiful child who was very aware of why she was in the nation’s capital with her mom and other parents and children who credit pregnancy resource centers for not only saving the life of their child, but for their own well-being.

“She knows how much I love her, and she thanks me for keeping her,” Fountain said.

Nikki Payne and her son ( Starr)

Nikki Payne also joined Heartbeat International’s annual “Babies Go to Congress” event on Capitol Hill in July. Payne juggled a stroller, diaper bag, and her active toddler son, Zuri, as she marched up and down the halls to visit members of Congress.

Heartbeat International is an umbrella organization that serves 1,100 affiliated pregnancy help centers.

Payne said she was 19 and not in a relationship when she became pregnant. She decided that rather than confide in family and friends, she would just get an abortion on her own.

“I was worried about the judgment of family and friends because of the goals I had in mind,” Payne told “So I tried to make the decision to terminate my pregnancy alone without anyone knowing.”

She described her visit to Planned Parenthood as an “awful experience.”

“It was very impersonal and very robotic, and I didn’t feel right,” Payne said. In contrast, she said that when she visited the pregnancy resource center in the city where she lived in Virginia, a counselor spent several hours talking to her about alternatives to abortion.

“So it’s just a huge turnaround from going somewhere where I was just a number to actually wanting to inform me so I could make an informed decision and know the repercussions or the rewards of the decision I was going to make,” Payne said.

As she held her wiggly son in her arms, she said she could not imagine having made the decision to go through with an abortion.

“It’s not possible to see him not in my life,” Payne said. “They gave me an ultrasound, which made everything so clear – that Zuri is going to be that blessing in my life.”

“And there is no way I could choose whether he lives or dies,” Payne said. “It’s not my place to choose to take a life away.”

Melinda Delahoyde, president of Care Net, which oversees a network of more than 1,000 pregnancy resource centers around the United States, said that NARAL’s attempts to discredit the work that centers do through these kind of reports, and also in court cases it has brought against centers, actually can work in their favor when people hear the stories of women like Fountain and Payne.

“When we go in front of state legislators and tell what we do, it’s not working to [NARAL’s] good,” Delahoyde said. “It works for our good because they hear from women themselves.

“We have a chance to educate the media, community leaders, public health officials – everyone who is there in that room,” Delahoyde said. “Here are the stories from women. Here is what actually happens: what do pregnancy centers do and how we’re connected in our local communities.

“That this isn’t some big, top down, nationalized thing,” Delahoyde said. “This is people in their local community, working with other people in their community to help women who need it.”

“That is what it is all about,” she said. “And when that story comes out, it works to our benefit.”