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Mom Support: Friends of Birthright

Nothing is as life-changing as having a child. While it’s an occasion of great joy for most, when a pregnancy is unplanned, it can cause stress, fear and doubts about the future. Especially for indigent or very young women, having a child to care for can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But no matter the situation, Birthright Counseling offers women a shoulder to lean on and support to move forward.

Founded in 1968 in Toronto, the nonprofit now has more than 300 chapters in the United States, Canada and Africa. Each year, approximately 3,000 women receive services at Birthright Counseling’s four St. Louis area locations. The organization promises a non-judgmental approach to prenatal discussion for women of all ages and economic circumstances. Beyond providing professional counseling to women as they work through their decision and post-pregnancy plans, Birthright also offers free pregnancy tests, financial aid, tuition assistance and housing programs. Information is available about everything from pregnancy and childbirth to parenting skills, adoption and career development. Birthright can refer women to medical, financial and legal experts, prenatal and parenting education, and post-partum counseling. Support continues as long as the mother needs it.

“We support women during and after their pregnancy,” says executive director Maureen Zink, who emphasizes that while Birthright is pro-life, it is not a political organization and refrains from picketing or evangelizing. “We’re here for women who want to consider the option of having their baby. We provide a non-judgmental space where they can speak to a professional counselor and sort out their decision. We want each woman to feel empowered to make the best choice for herself and her baby. We don’t want a woman to choose termination just because she can’t pay her rent or has to leave school. We put everything in place so that choice isn’t made because she couldn’t get past one of these hurdles.”

Birthright also works to improve the health of infants. In St. Louis, the infant mortality rate is higher than in many developing countries, says Zink, citing data from the Maternal Child & Family Health Coalition. In response to this, Birthright has implemented programs like perinatal and postpartum depression screenings, alcohol and substance use screenings, and classes to strengthen women emotionally and physically.

To keep its doors open, the nonprofit relies on community support. Its major annual gala, A Night for Life, takes place Sept. 17 at The Ritz-Carlton. This year’s event, which is hosted by Friends of Birthright, marks the 45th anniversary of Birthright’s arrival in St. Louis. It is chaired by Barb Finnegan. The Drury family (of the hotel chain) will receive an award for its ongoing support. “Over all these years, we’ve served more than 200,000 women,” Zink says. “Birthright goes above and beyond; thanks to our donors, we have the resources to do that.”

Pictured: Friends of Birthright president Elaine Knight and gala chair Barb Finnegan
Photo: Colin miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

The annual A Night for Life Gala, a benefit for Birthright Counseling hosted by Friends of Birthright, takes place Sept. 17 at The Ritz-Carlton. Pictured on the cover: Charles and Shirley Drury, winners of the Monsignor Hartnett award, and special gala guests Janet As hcroft and former U.S Attorney General John As hcroft. For more information, call 314.962.5300 or visit birthrightstl.org.
Cover design by Jon Fogel | Photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton

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