Local pro-life organization marks 40th year
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Quietly carrying out its mission for the past 40 years, Birthright in Jefferson City has supported the right of every pregnant woman to give birth and the right of every child, once conceived, to be born.
The local Birthright office celebrated its anniversary this weekend.
“We’re pretty low-key, not flashy or splashy,” said board secretary Eileen Plassmeyer. “It works for us.”
When volunteer co-director Barb Schmitz stepped up to the call for such a service by then-Bishop Michael McAuliffe, it was just after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled on the Roe vs. Wade decision.
“There were these young ladies who wanted to give birth, but no one was there for them,” Schmitz recalled. “I knew I had to do something.”
Today, they have been joined by a variety of organizations with the same hope but different parts to play.
“The more, the merrier; we can’t reach everybody,” Plassmeyer said.
Missouri Right to Life and 40 Days for Life bring education and legislative action to preserving life, she said. And the St. Raymond’s Society provides a physical place to stay and meets other tangible needs.
The Vitae Society and the Pregnancy Help Center of Central Missouri have their niches too.
“We work one on one with the girls,” Plassmeyer said.
Schmitz added: “We love the mother so she can love her baby.”
Operating on donations mostly from faith-based organizations, the non-denominational, not-for-profit benefits most from word of mouth to reach its clients.
“There are so many girls in pitiful plights,” Plassmeyer said. “I could see why a girl might consider abortion; we’re here to offer an alternative.”
Often these young mothers have been abandoned by their parents or the baby’s father, Schmitz said.
“They’re on the street with no place to go,” she said. “With the economy and family life today, I see the need increasing.”
In 2010, they served 1,500 calls. Then, more than 2,300 requests came in 2011 and 2,400 in 2012.
They had to expand their facilities for more storage.
“I had no concept of the need before I worked here,” Plassmeyer said.
From its doorstep at 1006 E. High St., Birthright provides maternity clothes and limited children’s clothes.
Upon request, a volunteer registered nurse has provided ultrasounds for the past three years.
Or sometimes, it’s simply a pregnancy test and someone with whom to talk.
For the trained volunteers who meet with expecting mothers at the office, the personal experience is emotional and spiritual.
Plassmeyer said she has talked with abortion-minded women who change their minds, which she attributes to the intervening of the Holy Spirit.
Schmitz has held babies born months after she talked with the mother.
“It’s a special feeling to look at that baby and know nine months ago they were in danger,” Schmitz said.
Local volunteers include nurses, office staff, counselors and attorneys. Plassmeyer suggested today more than ever before, people are educated and want to help.
The average volunteer gives six hours monthly.
“We stay very busy,” Plassmeyer said.
The local office hours are 4-6 p.m. Monday and noon-3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
The hotline reaches a live volunteer in Atlanta, Ga., who will call a local volunteer, if necessary.
Currently, Birthright has nearly two dozen trained volunteers, ranging in background from young mothers to retirees to nurses.
Local churches hold baby showers to keep the baby items and supplies stocked. And financial donors benefit from the recently re-established tax credit for pregnancy help centers.
Quilting groups make blankets and booties.
One of the greatest assets has been a listing on the Missouri State Employee Charitable Campaign.
And organizations like the Knights of Columbus meet specific needs, as they arise.
“If you can save one baby, it’s worth,” Schmitz said.
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