Personal Stories Reveal How Pregnancy Resource Centers Empower Women, Help Families

By Penny Starr | September 30, 2009 | 7:15 PM EDT

From left, Shailane Bright, Mallory Hitt, and Kendra Howerton shared their stories on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., about how pregnancy resource centers impacted their lives and the lives of their children. ( Starr)

( – The first published report of the work done by pregnancy resource centers around the United States was unveiled Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Stories told by some of the women at the event revealed the need for and benefits of the pregnancy centers.
There are more than 2,300 centers that offer free services to women facing unplanned pregnancies, including pre-natal and post-natal care, adoption services, education, and practical support, ranging from housing and transportation to parenting classes.
Some 40,000 volunteers and countless medical professionals serve women and families across the nation – nearly 2 million people are served by pregnancy resource centers each year.
The report was a collaborative effort of the Family Research Council, Care Net, Heartbeat International, Life International, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. Three women, who have a special connection to the work that pregnancy resource centers do, told their personal stories at the event.
Shalaine Bright is the proud mother of a baby boy, but it wasn’t long ago that the news that she was pregnant devastated her and her family. She had just graduated from college and started a promising career.
“My future seemed so bright,” she said. “Then, suddenly, I found myself pregnant at 21.”
Everyone around her, including her boyfriend and family members, encouraged her to have an abortion.
“Otherwise,” Bright said, “My life would be over.”
Bright said the support she got from the Pregnancy Centers of Central Virginia not only saved the life of her son, Gabriel, but changed her life as well.
“Motherhood has changed me,” she told the group at Wednesday’s event, many of whom had tears in their eyes midway through her remarks. “Something about it has just matured me in a way I can’t even describe. It gave me a new perspective of life. It has made me unselfish.”
Kendra Howerton was just 19 when she became pregnant. Suddenly, the boyfriend who said he wanted to marry her changed his mind, but Howerton decided to continue her pregnancy. She learned about pregnancy resource centers when her daughter was three, and she took a parenting class at Stillwater Life Services in Stillwater, Okla.
The center not only helped Howerton and her sister overcome the scars of the severe abuse they had suffered as children, but when her sister faced an unplanned pregnancy, she had the emotional and practical support she needed to choose life for her daughter.
“I cannot imagine my life without my seven-year-old niece,” Howerton said.
The center also changed Howerton’s life in other ways. After volunteering to lead a support group for single moms, she went back to school and eventually was hired as the center’s executive director.
“If it weren’t for Stillwater Life Services, I honestly do not know where I would be today,” said Howerton, who now works with a community outreach program in California.
But perhaps the most compelling story was told by college student Mallory Hitt, who remarked on the lives of the two women who spoke before her.
“I have just been struck by how incredibly fortunate I am to be alive and to be here today,” said Hitt, a sophomore at Regent University. “I am the child of a client.
“My mother was raped,” Hitt said. “She went to a pregnancy center called Living Alternatives, and they counseled her through the whole situation. They connected her with an adoption agency, and they found my parents.
“I have two incredibly loving parents,” Hitt said. “I couldn’t ask for better parents.
“I have been incredibly blessed, and looking back I can see how God has preserved my life, that even before conception he was looking after me,” she said.
Describing herself as a person of purpose, Hitt said she thinks she survived for a reason.
“I know there’s a reason why I made it through and I wasn’t aborted,” Hitt said.
The authors of the report, “A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life,” are Moira Gaul, fellow and director of Women’s and Reproductive Health at the Family Research Council (FRC); and Charles Donovan, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
FRC President Tony Perkins did not attend the event but seemed to sum up the mood of the occasion in a statement he released about the report.
“As overdue and welcome as this recognition was, the women and men who guide the work of pregnancy resource centers in every corner of the nation have always seen their work as its own reward: in women assisted, children protected, families strengthened and lives transformed,” Perkins said.
“Today we celebrate all their accomplishments and add our thanks as they rededicate themselves to the mission that has inspired and helped so many of our fellow Americans,” said Perkins.