Located directly beside the Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic, Aid to Women (ATW) has served on the frontline of the pro-life movement for more than 30 years. Founded in 1984, the pro-life crisis pregnancy centre is dedicated to accompanying young women through unplanned pregnancies up to birth, and into the first years of parenthood. They are committed to educating women on the alternatives to abortion and help them in making a life-affirming decision about their pregnancy.
ATW is essential in spreading public awareness about abortion and its many physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. The centre currently has one full-time and one part-time staff, as well as several volunteers. They offer confidential and non-judgemental emotional support, free pregnancy tests, medical referrals, post-abortion referrals, and honest information on prenatal development, pregnancy, childbirth, abortion and abortion alternatives. Additionally, they provide material support for postnatal women such as diapers, clothes, strollers, and car seats. Mary Helen Moes, executive director of ATW, said “I have yet to see a problem a women brings us so big they must abort the child.” ATW is currently working with 21 women which is much higher in comparison to their usual six to eight clients. It is crucial that ATW staff keep close contact with their clients throughout the pregnancy and continue to support them until the child is two years of age as these women are at a risk for changing their minds due to a multitude of pressures.
ATW has been historically known for offering sidewalk counselling to try and dissuade women going into the abortuary next door by informing them of the abortion process and consequences. Due to the bubble zone legislation, the centre’s traditional source of outreach is now illegal. “It is hard to have a mom in your office and watch them walk out the door still convinced that an abortion is the only alternative. And due to the bubble zone, I truly can’t run after them,” said Moes.
To have a more visible and prominent presence in the bubble zone, ATW now leases the main level of the building and will be able to use the storefront to advertise its services once renovations are complete. With no sidewalk communication, the staff has adopted a new strategy of meeting women where they’re looking for help, such as an active social media presence, updated website, and referrals from allies in jobs that also care for women.
On Sept. 26, ATW will be hosting an open house at their 300 Gerrard Street East location that will give a behind-the-scenes tour of the centre and show their plans for the first floor expansion. The open house is from 3-5 pm. A reception will be held at the Cardinal Newman Centre on the University of Toronto Campus from 7-9 pm in celebration of their 30th anniversary. “Each win for Life deserves to be recognized, and yes celebrated,” said Moes. Registration is free for both events and everyone is welcome to celebrate the past three decades of saving babies.