.- Essential Pregnancy Services (EPS) in Omaha opened its doors 40 years ago as a direct response to legalized abortion, said Nancy Foral, the center's executive director.
And it was not alone.
Thousands of pregnancy centers opened all over the country after the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the United States.
First established in the 1960s to help provide resources for struggling, pregnant women as some states began allowing abortions, pregnancy centers developed quickly in all 50 states after Roe v. Wade. The number of small, faith-based maternity homes also grew.
Foral said that as she reflects on the tragic impact of the Supreme Court's decision 40 years ago, she also thinks about the good that has come from EPS and other pregnancy centers, including educational opportunities for women seeking medical, parenting and other information.
"We not only want every child conceived to be born, but we want that child to be healthy and raised in a responsible way," she said.
Ann Marie Bowen, director of Nebraskans United for Life, said her organization, which formed in 1973 to battle abortion on the political front, broadened its services in 1999 to help women through its NuLife Pregnancy Resource Center, which provides free tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, peer counseling, parenting classes and baby items.
Other centers such as Birthright, an international pro-life organization with offices in Columbus and Norfolk, also give practical assistance, including free pregnancy tests and baby items.
Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities, said pregnancy centers play a key role in reaching the ultimate goal - making abortion not only illegal, but not even contemplated as an option.
"I think they really represent the heart of the pro-life movement because they are a key part of our effort to make abortion unthinkable," he said. "The only way that's going to happen is with the practical support these centers provide."
Many pregnancy centers also have expanded services, Foral said.
EPS has branched out from free pregnancy tests and information to free health clinics, ultrasounds, adoption counseling, parenting classes, high school diploma services, nutrition programs, emergency food assistance and parenting supplies, she said.
"We see people come in here and they're scared and they don't think they can do this," Foral said. "But we're kind to them, supportive and provide answers and options. They don't feel like they're doing it alone."
Posted with permission from Catholic Voice, official publication of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb.