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Two local social-service agencies offer contrasting approaches to pregnancy

Friday, September 28, 2012 - 9:50 am

Anyone who becomes sexually active is responsible for preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and preventing an unplanned pregnancy. If contraception fails or isn't used, then the woman and her husband or partner should both deal with the consequences.

The News-Sentinel looked at two local agencies that provide resources related to reproductive issues for women and men.

Planned Parenthood provides contraception, a range of medical tests, pregnancy tests, adoption referrals and abortion services in some clinics.

A Hope Center provides pregnancy testing, resources for pregnant women, ultrasound services and adoption referrals, but it does not perform abortions or make abortion referrals.

Here are more details about both:

Planned Parenthood

When the Susan G. Komen for the Cure nonprofit temporarily withdrew funding earlier this year for Planned Parenthood, bowing to anti-abortion pressure, many noted that Planned Parenthood offers many life-saving preventive procedures, such as breast exams, Pap tests, HIV tests, cholesterol tests and more.

In addition, Planned Parenthood offers contraception, annual exams, sexually transmitted disease tests, testicular exams, HPV vaccinations, pregnancy tests, adoption referrals, education services and, yes, abortion services.

Of the 28 Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) health centers, four provide abortion services. Centers in Merrillville, Indianapolis and Bloomington provide surgical abortions. Lafayette offers medication abortions.

More than 93 percent of Planned Parenthood services are preventive in nature; less than 7 percent of patients seek abortions, according to Catherine O'Connor, senior public policy director for PPIN.

“PPIN is first and foremost a provider of life-saving, preventive health care,” O'Connor said in an email. “Our nonprofit does more than any other organization in the state to lower abortion rates through its focus on prevention, education and adoption.”

Both Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, want to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood; Ryan has voted to end funding to Planned Parenthood. Yet O'Connor said, “Not a single dime of our federal funding is used for abortion services — it is prohibited by law.” Statistics from fiscal year 2011 provide a snapshot of the agency's patients:

The median age was 24. Most patients — 73,384 — were female; 5,856 were male. Fifty-three percent of patients were at or under 100 percent of the federal poverty level; 68 percent were under 150 percent of the poverty level.

Asked whether she believes politicians and/or the government are trying to take away women's political choices, O'Connor said, “It's clear that there are certain extreme legislators on both the state and national levels who are trying to trample on women's rights, and that includes taking away reproductive choices. … The bottom line is that a woman, not politicians, should make the informed decisions when it comes to her health care.”

In Fort Wayne, Planned Parenthood is at 3914 W. Jefferson Blvd.

A Hope Center

A Hope Center is a nonprofit agency that helps women (and their partners) dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. The organization provides several services, but it does not perform abortions or make referrals for abortions.

Staff members offer practical help, emotional support and education to clients, said Terry Foss, director of development. “It is our responsibility to educate clients about all their pregnancy options including parenting, adoption and abortion so that they can make an informed choice. We recognize a woman's legal right to choose and give her unconditional positive regard as we explore options with her. … A Hope Center is a life-affirming pregnancy resource center that does not provide or refer for abortion.”

A Hope Center provides pregnancy testing and limited ultrasound services. The ultrasounds are used to confirm pregnancy, confirm fetal cardiac activity and estimate gestational age, Foss said. “By establishing the viability of a pregnancy, the client can truly make an informed choice.”

Other free services include pregnancy options consultation; referrals for medical care, legal assistance, etc.; childbirth and parenting classes; mentors; and peer consulting services for those struggling with a past abortion.

Another program, Earn While You Learn, lets clients earn “Bonus Bucks” by attending education sessions. The Bonus Bucks can be used at the center to purchase maternity and baby items.

Regarding birth control, if a married couple wants information, A Hope Center refers them to their physician. Otherwise, “because abstinence is the only 100 percent method of avoiding unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, the limitations of birth control methods are included in some group presentations or discussions with clients,” Foss said.

Last year, A Hope Center served 2,807 unique clients who made more than 10,400 visits, Foss said.

A Hope Center is funded entirely by individual donations, private foundations, churches and fundraisers, Foss said. It receives no state or federal funding. It is part of Care Net, a national affiliation network of pregnancy centers.

Offices are at 3630 Hobson Road (main office); 3701 S. Calhoun St.; 4705 Illinois Road; and 13410 Main St., Grabill. The Grabill office is only open 4-7 p.m. Mondays.