Single pregnant women often feel isolated and afraid. Because they become vulnerable to pressure, some of these women will see abortion as their only solution.
But the North York Crisis Pregnancy Centre has opened to help women and girls of all ages and backgrounds who are confused and frightened about their pregnancy. The centre tries to show these women that there are alternatives to abortion.
“We offer pro-life counseling,” says director Ebeline Zee-Hawtin.
Since the centre opened last October, the North York Crisis Pregnancy Centre has helped 182 girls and women through individual counseling. The centre, which has 35 volunteers to counsel girls on a 24-hour-basis, attracts many girls because it offers free pregnancy testing.
Mrs. Zee-Hawtin feels that many women who come to the centre particularly need someone to talk to. “While the pregnancy testing is being done, a counselor has been talking to the girl for an hour. The counselor becomes more like a friend.”
While waiting for the results of the pregnancy test, the counselor talks about a wide range of topics which include religion, relationships and pre-natal development. Then, the women are shown a film – a shortened version of the pro-life film Assignment Life.
If the pregnancy test is positive, then the centre refers women to pro-life doctors who confirm the test results. Sometimes the counselors will not hear from the women again.
“When that happens, we like to think that the women have found the support they needed. Even if the counselor thinks a woman is going to have an abortion, the counselor won’t turn away. We tell them to come back,” said Mrs. Zee-Hawtin.
But the centre is prepared to give any help that might be needed. If a woman decides that adoption is her alternative, then the centre refers the woman to a licensed Christian adoption agency – Jewels for Jesus of The Chosen Ones.
Or, if a woman decides to keep her baby and needs financial help, the centre can provide maternity and baby items. If she needs a place to stay, the centre can even find her a family who will give her a home.
The centre also helps the women use resources in their own community – by referring them to childbirth classes and legal assistance.
Boyfriends sometimes come into the centre and they receive counseling with their girlfriends.
Most of the volunteer counselors work from their own home, taking phone calls. The director has just trained 18 more. Each volunteer is given special training and is interviewed about his or her views on abortion and life.
The North York Crisis Pregnancy Centre was started by the Christian Action Council – a Protestant organization dedicated to take action against abortion through education. Although members of the centre’s board of directors are from the Council, the centre is run independently. Mrs. Zee-Hawtin believes the Christian approach is very important to the success of the centre. The counselors don’t give advice on contraceptives or referrals for abortion.
“We want to help them make a decision about what is right for them as a person. We don’t say ‘Don’t have an abortion’ but we also try to make them understand how abortion harms them physically and emotionally,” says Mrs. Zee-Hawtin. She also feels that follow-up is essential. Even when women come in and find out they are not pregnant, the counselor will encourage them to stay in contact.
Despite its busy Yonge-Finch location, the centre offers quiet and peace so that the counselor can help a woman make a decision that is the best. The centre, which relies on private donations from churches for financial support, operates on a budget of $2,500 a month. The biggest expenses are rent, telephone bills, and advertising costs. The centre advertised in the Toronto Sun, but would eventually advertise more widely if financially possible.
“We’re fairly new right now, but we’re ready to help more women,” said Mrs. Zee-Hawtin.
The North York Crisis Pregnancy Centre is dedicated to helping women and their unborn children.
For more information or assistance, contact: North York Crisis Pregnancy Centre, 5584 Yonge St., Toronto, 283-5093.
Some other pregnancy centres in the Toronto area are: Life Centre (Brampton), 459-2488; Markham-Stouffville Crisis Pregnancy Centre, 294-5749.