Aid to Women, the Toronto pro-life crisis pregnancy centre that assists women facing unwanted or difficult pregnancies by providing material, emotional and spiritual support, is facing a crisis of its own: not being able to fully support the women they serve.
When the Toronto Catholic District School Board booted out UNICEF in the late 1990s, it permitted three other charities to distribute boxes at Halloween to raise funds. One of those groups was Aid to Women. However, earlier this year, the board removed Aid to Women’s ability to distribute this important fundraising box, instead giving it the right to participate in the board’s right to life week.
More than 50 schools participated in the fundraiser for Aid to Women, helping gross near $10,000 in recent years. Joanne Dieleman, who helped co-found Aid to Women (she also serves on the editorial board of The Interim) says that the money raised did not go to operating expenses but was used for direct and necessary support for vulnerable women, primarily after they have had their children.
The money was used to purchase necessities such as diapers and formula, baby clothes and groceries and sometimes to pay the rent so that mother and child would not be evicted.
At Christmas time, Aid to Women purchased food coupons to make life a little easier for the women – many young and impoverished – they support. The loss of the Aid to Women Halloween boxes – or more properly, the loss of the funds such boxes brought in – means that Aid to Women cannot provide these necessities and cannot make these women’s lives, women who have chosen life, a little easier.
“We can’t do nearly what we want to do,” Dieleman explained. “We want to do more but we can’t.”
Dieleman explained that while Aid to Women is happy to participate in the school board’s Right to Life week, it is unclear how the crisis pregnancy centre is going to make up their funding deficit. For now, Aid to Women continues counselling women and providing care packages when their babies are born but they regret that they are not able to continue with material support as the infant grows.