This article was written by Clint Ritchie, Community Ministries Mobilization Specialist on the Missions Team at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Across the world, it is estimated that an abortion occurs every 23 seconds. While the Arkansas legislature has passed laws in recent years to make our state one of the most restrictive for abortion access, the abortion rate remains at 5% for women aged 15-44 years. Pregnancy Care Centers across the state are working to change that statistic, with twenty-four centers receiving funding from the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering.
While the Pregnancy Care Centers have paid staff, the ministries are dependent upon volunteers, many who attend churches that are part of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Some volunteers are medical professionals who use their skills to minister to women in crisis, while others are pro-life supporters that found a way to live out their conviction through this ministry.
Most of the centers are medical centers, meaning that they provide ultrasound and prenatal care. When an expectant mother considering abortion has the opportunity to have an ultrasound, the chances of her choosing life increase considerably. The sound of a heartbeat and images of a moving fetus with distinguishable anatomy helps the expectant mother understand the value of life. The centers that are not medical assist with getting an ultrasound and medical care, but both kinds of centers share with the mother the sanctity of life and the options available.
The Pregnancy Care Centers do more than persuade a mother to choose life; they build relationships. Research shows that a common reason expectant mothers consider abortion is because they feel like they cannot afford a child and that they are alone in the journey. Some volunteers serve as advocates for the mothers, where mentoring occurs, and a mother realizes someone will stand with them. The centers also teach classes on child-rearing, infant care, finances, and other life skills important to parenting. The classes are biblically-based, and participants receive “baby bucks”—points earned that can be cashed in at the center’s “store.” The store is stocked with baby clothes, diapers and wipes, blankets, and even larger items like car seats. Many of these items are donated through local supporters or are obtained through grants.
Another offering of the centers involves classes and mentorships for men. It can be rare for the male partner to be involved in the process, but there are some who desire to learn how to be a biblical father and provide the needed care to the mother and child. Male volunteers teach and mentor other males, who also earn “baby bucks” and have a role in providing for the child’s needs.
Additionally, some of the centers have mobile units, which are RVs converted to a medical unit equipped with an ultrasound. This expands the reach of the centers into areas of high need but with a population base unable to support a stand-alone center.
The ministry of the Pregnancy Care Centers can be described as a journey. An expectant mother walks in needing help and is shown love, acceptance, and value, then she is shown the life inside her womb. She is told that help is available, including emotional support and parenting education. Along the way, she is told of the God who created her- and her baby- and how He sent His Son to die for the sins of the world and has a plan for her life and the life of her unborn child.
In 2021, the 24 centers supported in part by Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering saw 21,408 clients, resulting in 185 professions of faith, and 467 babies were saved from abortion! For the first quarter of 2022, there have been 5,710 clients, 21 professions of faith, and 140 babies saved from abortion! The need is great, and the Lord is blessing the work!
When center directors and volunteers get discouraged and wonder if their work is making a difference, all they usually have to do is look around the center where they will find another volunteer who first came to the center as a client and is now investing in other women because someone invested in them.
Like churches, the centers are always looking for more volunteers. If you have a particular skill set or just a passion to help women in crisis, contact your local Pregnancy Care Center. Below is a list of those supported in part through the state missions offering.