Pregnant Pause at the Pregnancy Resource Center | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

August 11, 2010 News » Cover Story

Pregnant Pause at the Pregnancy Resource Center 

The Pregnancy Resource Center wants Utah women to stop and think before they abort.

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Care On Delivery
A first-time PRC client fills out a form, which seeks information on both religious orientation and whether an abortion is sought. Whether the urine test is positive or not, the client is offered counseling by client advocates “who share God’s truth with love and grace,” according to the Website. The advocates have often gone through teen pregnancies as single mothers.

Counselors show clients interested in fetal development the startling contents of a small, black-felt-covered box—namely four pink fetuses marking the stages of the first trimester. For information on abortions, board member Steve Earnshaw says brochures such as “Before you decide” are a blessing, since “they do much of the heavy lifting.” The brochures are produced by Care Net—which the Salt Lake City PRC is affiliated with—one of three national pro-life umbrella organizations for pregnancy resource centers.

Along with a detailed description of medical and surgical abortions, the booklet also focuses on the spiritual consequences of abortion. Having an abortion, it says, “may have an impact on your relationship with God. What is God’s desire for you in this situation? How does God see your unborn child?”

Clients are offered a free ultrasound between six and 12 weeks into their pregnancy. The ultrasound, PRC nursing manager Joan Manning says, “allows [clients] to know there is life, that a baby is growing inside them.” The fetus is measured from “crown to rump” and the mother given her due date. Then, Manning puts a series of images of fluttering heartbeats on replay so the mother can have time alone contemplating her pregnancy. “They begin to bond with the baby,” the grandmotherly Manning enthuses. Then, with her unwavering brown eyes, she puts the client on the spot. “Often they’ve scooted around the issue,” she says. “We acknowledge [the decision] is hers to make and ask what she’s planning on doing.”

Manning gives the pregnant client a blanket and booties and asks what words to type on the ultrasound image the client takes away as a memento. “Sometimes they want ‘awesome,’ sometimes ‘Hi, mommy,’ ” Anderson says. Neither the client’s name nor the fetus’ gestational age are put on the image to ensure it is not used to facilitate an abortion.

Finally, Manning will ask to pray with the client, to thank God for bringing her to the PRC, for providing “the miracle of the ultrasound” and to guide her steps for “the life growing inside her.”

A few blocks away, at the Utah Women’s Clinic, abortion provider Dr. Madhuri Shaw and her office manager, Miriam Staker, offer a different perspective on ultrasounds. Staker says ultrasounds bring closure for women with fetuses at six weeks’ gestation when they see the empty sack and yolk. But when the fetus is more developed, Shaw, who has performed 70,000 to 80,000 abortions in her 40-year career in Utah, says the impact of seeing an ultrasound on a young woman “can be a destructive, painful thing.”

That’s apparent in the words of a 27-year-old woman—who asked that her name be withheld—minutes after she underwent a surgical abortion at the Utah Women’s Clinic. She sits wrapped in a blanket on a stretcher in one of the examination rooms, swaying and occasionally crying from the pain. She wanted to see the ultrasound of her unplanned 11-week fetus. “I saw a head and body.” She was startled. “My mind went blank. I took a deep breath. I couldn’t think for 30 seconds.”

How the doctor treated her in the operating room also created problems. An abortion, she says, is such an invasive, personal thing, yet the doctor came in and set to work without a word. She had to ask his name. “I thought that was a little traumatizing.” That said, in such a conservative state as Utah, she says, “it’s great that people have the resource and choice.”

The Dead Zone

One recent PRC client is 26-year-old Crystal. She met John, the father of her three children, seven years ago, after moving to Clearfield for work.

They had two children together, but then John “made some stupid mistakes” and went to jail. At the same time, Crystal realized she might be pregnant. After a home-test kit she bought at a dollar store confirmed her suspicions, she went to Planned Parenthood “hoping to find answers” to her questions about abortion. They told her they don’t perform abortions, gave her a list of places that would, and, she says, “sent me away with a wave of their hand.”

She walked by the PRC and, on impulse, went inside. When they said they could only tell her about abortions—and not provide a referral to a provider—she started to leave in tears, only for several PRC volunteers to hug her and persuade her to stay.

A counselor explained “in graphic detail” what happened to a fetus during an abortion. “The woman has reeds placed inside her,” she recalls being told. “You either have the baby suctioned out or pulled out in pieces. Further along, you have to take a funky knife and cut it in pieces and suction it out.” Crystal was crying during the counseling, “trying to put myself in a place where I felt nothing.”

For four hours, PRC staff and volunteers talked and listened to her, she says. A counselor offered her a Bible and said a prayer for her. “It was a nice prayer about staying strong,” Crystal says.

Upset that she wasn’t able to get an abortion, she went home, “still in denial I was pregnant, keeping it to myself.” She went back to the PRC two weeks later for an ultrasound with John, who was now out of jail. When the nurse pointed out the fetus on the screen, John, Crystal says, “had butterflies and was smiling.” Crystal didn’t share his joy. “I wanted to feel good about it. It’s not fair. My heart wasn’t in it.”

The PRC gave her papers with a June due date. Crystal went home, haunted by one piece of information that, she says, the PRC had given her: The fetus can feel pain after 10 weeks, although Anderson cautions it’s only a possibility.

Crystal went back and forth over it, struggling for 20 weeks, until finally she gave up. “I couldn’t think about it anymore.” When it came down to it, she says, “I couldn’t do the abortion because I felt terrible, I couldn’t kill the baby.” She delivered and kept her baby.

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