Cover Stories

Offering Options: Friends of Birthright

There are many ways to react to a positive home pregnancy test. Some women are thrilled to see that ‘+’ sign. Others, not so much. “I was 39 years old and already had two children,” recalls Zoey. “I’d just finished my master’s degree and had a busy career.” Krystal was an 18-year-old college freshman when she found out. “I was terrified to tell my parents,” she says. “I was just a kid. How was I supposed to raise a child?” And Lisa summed it up this way: “I was in an abusive relationship and working a minimum-wage job. When I learned I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed with fear.”

Each of these women considered terminating her pregnancy. Each was under tremendous pressure from family, friends or circumstances. Then they sought help at Birthright Counseling, an organization that provides ongoing support and assistance throughout pregnancy to women of all ages and economic circumstances. “We want women faced with an unintended pregnancy to know they have options other than termination,” says executive director Maureen Zink. “Women deserve respect and compassion as they make their decision. Birthright is here to inform them of their options, answer all of their questions and help them during this difficult, confusing time.”

Approximately 3,000 women each year receive services at Birthright Counseling’s four locations. More than 90 percent choose life for their babies, Zink notes. “Our counselors listen to them and empower them to tap into their strengths,” she says. “We help them make calm, fully informed decisions. We provide whatever they need to deliver and care for their baby, either directly or through referrals to community agencies.” Free, confidential services include pregnancy testing, professional counseling from master’s-level counselors and social workers, referrals to medical care and other resources, prenatal and parenting education, Gala co-chair Barb Finnegan, Friends of Birthright president Elaine Knight and gala chair Janine DiMarco and post-partum counseling. Assistance also can include scholarship support for school, as well as career and life-skills training. Support continues as long as the mother needs it.

The agency relies on donations to keep its doors open. The annual A Night for Life Gala, hosted by Friends of Birthright, takes place Sept. 19 in the Redbird Club at Busch Stadium. “Up to 40 percent of our annual operating budget is generated by Friends of Birthright, and the gala is our major fundraiser,” Zink explains. The event is chaired by Janine DiMarco and co-chaired by Barb Finnegan. Honorary chairs are John and Julie Mozeliak. The Jerry Lawlor family will receive the Msgr. Hartnett Award for three generations of service to Birthright.

“Women come to us with their world turned upside down, unsure of their future,” Zink says. “Many are frightened and unsure of themselves. Others feel like the dreams and goals they once had are now over. They don’t know if they can care for a child. We assure them they’re not alone, and we help them discover the confidence they need to stand up for themselves and their baby.

Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton
Pictured: Gala co-chair Barb Finnegan, Friends of Birthright president Elaine Knight and gala chair Janine DiMarco

[The annual A Night for Life Gala, a benefit for Birthright Counseling hosted by Friends of Birthright, takes place Sept. 19 in the Redbird Club at Busch Stadium. For more information, call 314.962.5300 or visit http://birthrightstl.org.]

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