New Life Counseling Provides Assistance for Unplanned Pregnancies
By Kerri Cooke
The state of women’s healthcare in America raises the question of whether we, as a society, are doing the best we can to meet the needs of half the population. There was a big uproar when the Affordable Care Act proposed to require businesses to provide birth control pills to all female employees. However, women’s health is much more than access to birth control pills. We seem to be putting the cart before the horse.
Many women of all age groups seem to lack basic education and knowledge about their body in regards to fertility. When we are young, we are taught that if we bleed every month, we are not pregnant, and if we do not bleed, then we are.
We are then told about all the terrible STDs in the world and how not to get them. Education generally stops at this point, and a lot of women remain clueless as to basic functions of their own bodies.
Whether it’s due to the lack of knowledge or failure to take precautions, women sometimes end up having unplanned pregnancies at what could seem like the worst possible moment.
Pregnancy is considered a beautiful process, but what happens when the pregnancy comes at a time in life that is not ideal or convenient?
Most of the resources for unplanned pregnancies in America are focused on teenage girls. But unexpected pregnancies can happen at various points in a woman’s life.
A woman in her 40s may have thought her chances of getting pregnant were over, while another woman may be facing the challenge of becoming a single parent. Whatever the circumstance, there is an organization in Lake Charles that seeks to meet the needs of all women of every age, socio-economic status, race and background to get the resources and information they need in the event of an unexpected pregnancy.
New Life Counseling is a non-profit pregnancy resource center for Southwest Louisiana. They exist solely on donations from the community. Their services include, but are not limited to, pregnancy testing, option counseling and information on the results of choosing adoption, parenting or abortion. All services are offered free of charge.
Jeanne LeBato, executive director of New Life Counseling, says the goal of the center is to provide a safe environment where women can share their stories and get the help they need to form responsible decisions to go through with pregnancy.
Married women face unexpected pregnancies as well as unmarried women. While a married woman might seem to have more resources than an unmarried woman, this is not always the case. There could be financial difficulties at home, or the pregnancy might come when there are issues in the marriage, such as the possibility of an impending divorce.
New Life Counseling provides advice and resources that allow women to make an educated decision for themselves and their baby. Detailed information on all options is provided.
New Life Counseling’s goal is to give women the resources they need to go through with the pregnancy, but they also provide scientific information on abortion. LeBato says that while New Life Counseling does not underwrite abortions because they have seen the devastating effects the procedure can have on the woman emotionally and mentally, the choice in the end is up to the mother.
LeBato adds that they provide detailed information on what happens during abortions and the possible effects such a procedure can have on the mother. This is followed up with a life-affirming ultrasound.
Abortions do not take the problem away, but actually cause more problems. An untimely pregnancy is often tied in with a much bigger issue. Even if a child is aborted, it is simply putting a band-aid on the overall problem. New Life Counseling seeks to help a woman through the problems in her personal life without creating more emotional trauma.
LeBato says that many women have no idea how an abortion will affect them long-term. New Life Counseling informs mothers on the growth and development of their child, what actually happens during an abortion and the consequences of an abortion.
LeBato says that 94 percent of women regret having had an abortion at some point in their life, while no woman has ever told her that she regrets having given birth to a child. She says that giving birth to her child allows a woman to “move forward with a clear conscience” and continue with hope towards a process of healing and restoration.
LeBato firmly believes that “life is a gift to be treasured, to be protected, to be honored — no matter how it came to be.”
Even though New Life Counseling does not believe in abortion, they will not turn a woman away if that is the route she chooses. Their doors are open to any woman who has had an abortion and is struggling with guilt or any type of emotional strain or dysfunction.
Life After Choice is an abortion-recovery program that is offered at New Life Counseling. It is a support group that consists of women who recognize the trauma that having an abortion has caused them. Women are able to communally go on a journey towards healing as they grieve the baby they have lost.
New Life Counseling also provides information a woman can use to make an educated decision about whether she wants to parent her child or give them up for adoption. LeBato says that regardless of which decision a mother chooses, a child is a gift and part of a “very beautiful love story.”
New Life Counseling also helps with adoption placement through different adoption agencies around the state. Mothers are able to choose the couple they want their baby to go to through an anonymous interviewing program.
A mother may decide she wants her baby to be raised in a family with the same religious views as her. Another factor that comes into play is race. Some mothers want their children to be raised by someone of the same race, while other mothers do not care as long as their baby has a loving home.
Not only is a mother able to choose the type of family her child is adopted into, she is also able to choose which type of adoption she wants.
There are three types of adoptions: open, semi-open, or closed. Open adoption occurs when the birth mother still has visitation rights. A semi-open adoption is one in which letters and pictures are exchanged. And a closed adoption is when the birth mother has no contact with her child at all.
Once a mother’s wishes are verbalized, adoption agencies are notified. The adoption agencies will then find couples that match the birth mother’s criteria.
Whether a mother chooses to keep her child or gives them up for adoption, New Life Counseling ensures there is someone to go with her to her doctor’s appointments. They also provide a presence in the hospital during her labor and delivery, regardless of whether she has a strong family support system.
If the mother is giving the child up for adoption after the birth, then the community at New Life Counseling will surround her, since adoption brings with it a sense of loss.
If a mother decides to parent her child, New Life Counseling has a useful program that helps provide her with the information she needs to help raise her baby while giving her the necessary supplies to do so.
The Earn While You Learn program is available to the mothers during and after their pregnancy. If a woman comes to the center and participates in classes on subjects such as parenting, prenatal care, life-skills training, steps to sexual health and healing or Bible study, they earn baby products.
Women learn how to have healthy relationships, create strong families, and become self-sufficient. LeBato says that women learn how to take care of themselves not only during but after pregnancy, as well. They hone the tools they need to become better women and mothers.
Financial assistance is available for these women in the event of a crisis as well. New Life Counseling will cover such things as rent, utilities or tuition payments if need be. Assistance with job applications is provided as well.
Adopt a Family for Christmas is a branch of the Earn While You Learn program. If a woman is in need and cannot buy Christmas gifts for her family, each member of the family makes a list to give to the center.
The lists are given anonymously to donors who will buy the items on the list. The center then distributes the gifts to each family. Last year, 22 families were adopted through the program, with 100 people receiving gifts for Christmas.
New Life Counseling sponsors quarterly baby showers for women who have chosen life. These baby showers are held for all the women in their last trimester of pregnancy. A meal and cake are provided as everyone gathers to celebrate the soon-to-arrive babies. Each pregnant woman who meets the criteria receives a gift basket valued between $200-250 filled with items such as handmade quilts and basic hygiene items.
New Life Counseling also hosts many other valuable programs. The Forget-Me-Nots group consists of parents who have lost a young child. The group is overseen by a clinical psychiatrist. It is for parents who are grieving a baby lost during pregnancy due to miscarriage or stillbirth or a child lost after birth due to SIDS or some other fatal incident in their infant years.
Woman 360°-A Body of Worth is a four-hour workshop for mothers and daughters or a seminar provided to middle and high school students or adults of all ages. It offers an overview of a women’s fertility.
The class teaches vital information regarding the female reproductive system. Young girls and grown women learn how to chart their cycle, understand what is normal and abnormal for their body, and “the beauty of giving the gift of fertility in marriage.”
LeBato adds that some other things Women 360°-A Body of Worth teaches are what a healthy relationship between a man and a woman looks like, what type of man is good for marriage, and how to protect one’s fertility both in the present and in the future.
Women 360°-A Body of Worth gives women a “newfound appreciation for femininity and fertility,” LeBato says. She states that many women have told her they wish someone had taught them this information before because they would have made different decisions earlier in their life.
Femm, which stands for fertility education medical model, is a class that teaches women about natural family planning or how to have what LeBato calls “green” sex. Femm provides information about contraception methods that do not include artificial hormones or steroids.
At the end of the day, all the services the staff at New Life Counseling offer are designed to help equip women for their future and provide them with love through their situation while helping them make well-informed decisions.
LeBato concludes by saying that New Life Counseling is heading up a capital campaign called “Expanding for the Expecting,” which is a fundraiser to help double the size of both the current facility and the parking lot. They have a goal of raising $750,000. The campaign has raised $430,000 so far.
LeBato says that they are always in need of financial supporters, donations of baby items and volunteers. She encourages anyone who feels called to serve in any area to call the office at (337) 474-7003 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.