Two days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned constitutional protection for legal abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Pregnancy Helpline of Madison threw a party at Fireman’s Park in Monona to celebrate its 40th anniversary and new name, Babies & Beyond.

The rebranding reflects the group’s expanded mission to serve children up to 4 years of age, says executive director Brenda Collins, who is the group’s first full-time director.

At the gathering there was a bouncy house for kids, musical entertainment, and food for sale from Little John’s food truck. There was not, however, any public celebration over the demise of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion for nearly 50 years. “We are nonpolitical and nonreligious,” explains Collins.

But Babies & Beyond is part of a large network of so-called crisis pregnancy centers that advertise counseling, health services and material assistance for women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, but actively dissuade women from seeking abortion and do not help with referrals. And yet if you Google “Madison + abortion” the search results produce two Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin clinics — that, due to the Dobbs decision, are now referring women seeking abortion to out-of-state clinics — as well as Access Women’s Center and Women’s Care Center, crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide or refer people to abortion services.

Collins says her group does not do much counseling anymore but instead sends women to Care Net Pregnancy Center of Dane County, which is a faith-based charitable organization that provides “resources that empower women and men to choose life for their unborn child through medical services, practical support, education and a maternity home,” according to its website. What Babies & Beyond does provide are donated diapers, baby clothes, baby toys, strollers, crib mattresses and food, including infant formula, to families in need.

Ebon Derks, the group’s client services coordinator, says she recently helped one mother whose four-month-old baby had been hospitalized twice because she could not get the brand of soy-based formula her baby would eat. While the mother was at the center, somebody donated nine cans of the formula she was seeking. “I gave her all nine cans because I didn’t want that baby to have to be hospitalized again,” says Derks. “She was so grateful.”

Derks says she expects an uptick in need for the services of her organization given the decision in Dobbs. “I definitely anticipate that if people have pregnancies that they didn’t intend for, that they will need some help. And I am ready and prepared to help them.”

Board president Mike Klingele says whether there are “going to be more or less people in difficult situations” due to the court ruling, the organization’s mission will not change: “Our approach is to help people in difficult situations.”

Klingele hopes that the news coverage about the abortion decision will mean that more people will learn about Babies & Beyond. “Whether they’re willing to donate time, whether they’re willing to drop off goods, whether they’re willing to give us money, whether they need our services, we want to get our name out that we provide these services. Not everybody knows that we’re here.”

He says the organization has never and will never refer women for an abortion. “We train our volunteers to understand what people’s needs are. We’re not going to refer someone for an abortion because we don’t think that’s actually going to help them.”

When pressed on that point Klingele, who says his Catholic religion informs his belief that life begins at conception, argues that the majority of abortions happen because women see no other choice. “People are in a really difficult situation and they don’t want to do that, but that’s what seems the most sense to do…. So part of my devotion to this organization is, ‘Can we make that difficult choice easier in some ways?’”

Klingele’s belief that abortion uniformly harms women contradicts scientific research. The Turnaway Study, for instance, a longitudinal study from researchers at the University of California-San Francisco, looked at the impacts of unwanted pregnancy on women’s lives. The aim of the study, which concluded in January 2016 and is the largest to date on the issue, was to identify the mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic consequences of receiving an abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. The researcher’s main finding: “Receiving an abortion does not harm the health and wellbeing of women, but in fact, being denied an abortion results in worse financial, health and family outcomes.” 





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