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Signs of the times

"Signs of the times" Continued...

Issue: "Food stamps surge," Nov. 19, 2011

Volunteers like the program because it clearly helps their clients, because they can build relationships with clients over a longer period of time, and because it helps to engage fathers. If the baby's father also takes classes, clients receive double baby bucks. Some of the classes meet several times a week, and others for an hour. In 2011, clients have taken 800 classes. Participation by men has increased so much that LifeCare plans to offer a curriculum developed by the National Fatherhood Initiative. Clients can take classes and shop in Hannah's Closet until their children are 1 year old.

Next on our tour was the counselors' room. Only people who know the code can get into the locked room where the center keeps confidential medical records, as well as counseling resources and curriculum materials. LifeCare is in the process of becoming certified to meet the same standards for patient confidentiality as any medical office.

Cobern showed me one of the forms that counselors use with clients. Developed by a team from the University of Ottawa, the Ottawa Personal Decision Guide helps clients to think through "'tough' healthcare decisions that may have multiple options; uncertain outcomes; benefits and harms that people value differently." With abortion-minded clients, LifeCare also uses Planned Parenthood's surgical consent form to go through abortion risks.

Cobern says teens make up about one-fourth of LifeCare's clients, and 40 percent of LifeCare's clients are older than 24. That makes sense, Cobern says. Teens often live at home and have a support network. Young women are more likely to be on their own. They may already have children. They are more likely to need the support of a place like LifeCare.

LifeCare offers sonograms to pregnant clients under the supervision of the center's medical director. He is an M.D. and his license covers services provided by the center's two volunteer doctors, two volunteer R.N.s, and a volunteer certified ultrasound stenographer. Altogether the center has over 100 volunteers who serve in a variety of ways, including counseling, abstinence teaching in the schools, and mentoring.

Cobern says the pregnancy center movement has always been apolitical. "It's hurt us in the long run," she says: "We need to let policy makers know about our services." She points to a statistic: 99 percent of center clients indicate on exit surveys that they "would recommend the center to a friend." She points to the sign ordinance as a perfect example of what happens when centers keep those good statistics to themselves: "The city council doesn't have any clue what we do."

Listen to Susan Olasky discuss the suspended enforcement of the Austin ordinance on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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