Stay tuned for more miracles

Since my arrival at Catholic Charities in April 2013, I’ve said that we serve two kinds of people: those with a need to give and those with a need to receive. That was brought home to me in an amazing way at A Beacon of Hope Gala for Lighthouse and Women’s Services, which raised more than $700,000 to help women, children and families in need.

Just before the gala began, I was blessed to introduce a Lighthouse client family to a donor whose advertising project had helped that expectant mom and dad find Lighthouse a year earlier. At the time, the young couple had been driving around Denver, thinking they might be pregnant. Then they saw a bus with an advertisement for Lighthouse Women’s Center and a phone number, which they called. They were treated with respect and compassion at Lighthouse throughout her pregnancy, they said. And at the Jan. 31 gala, they brought their beautiful 3-month-old baby in a carrier.

That story, for me, is what Catholic Charities is all about and what can happen when we give ourselves in faith to serve others, even if we don’t know how it will all turn out. Here’s the background:

Lighthouse Women’s Center had launched an eight-week advertising campaign in late 2013 on buses and light rail trains in the Denver market, intending to reach women in crisis pregnancies. The donor family funding the project had three goals: greater visibility for Lighthouse, ads with a dedicated phone number to track responses, and simple messaging and imagery to reach young women in crisis, such as “Unplanned pregnancy? You are NOT Alone” or “Considering an Abortion? We can help. Free Services.”

In the tally of calls received and services provided, we concluded that several women in various circumstances had a change of heart and did not pursue an abortion as a result of the advertising campaign. And know this: We don’t just ask a woman in a crisis pregnancy not to abort her child. We show her a path to a life with her child through our continuum of care. That includes free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and confidential counseling at Lighthouse—and may also include shelter, diapers, clothing, food, counseling—all that she may need to begin a life with that child. And whether a woman is abortion-minded, in a crisis pregnancy, seeking a pregnancy test or simply happens to see the right sign pointing her to Lighthouse at the right moment, we want to be there.

And so do our donors. At the gala, the donor family who had so generously funded the first transit ad campaign for Lighthouse said they are going to renew—and increase—their funding for that project. Stay tuned for more miracles.

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”