'Pro-life advocates say the portrayal of pregnancy care centers in the film “Gimme Shelter” should inspire concrete action to support pregnant women in crisis pregnancies, and their children.
“I think more than anything, the film gives the viewers pause to look at their own lives and see how they can make a difference,” Molly O'Connor, communications director at the New York-based Chiaroscuro Foundation, told CNA Feb. 13.
“We should work to ensure that our parishes, our schools, and community organizations provide an overwhelming message of support for both mother and child.”
“Gimme Shelter” focuses on Agnes “Apple” Bailey, portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens. Apple, whose character is based on a real person, is a pregnant 16-year-old who runs away from her abusive mother. She lives on the New Jersey streets, sleeping in unlocked cars and eating out of dumpsters.
After a car accident lands her in the hospital, a Catholic priest played by James Earl Jones visits Apple and challenges her to begin a new life. He directs her to find help at a local pregnancy shelter. Initially resistant, Apple agrees. At the shelter she finds hope, security, and sisterhood in preparing to become a mother.
The film was inspired by the work of Kathy DiFiore, who founded New Jersey’s Several Sources Shelters in the 1980s. The shelters offer assistance to the poor and marginalized, especially at-risk pregnant women who need a safe place to prepare for motherhood and to raise their children.
Alveda King, director of African-American outreach with Priests for Life, said the movie shows the work that pro-life advocates do.
“We really desire to help people, to help families,” she said Feb. 13.
She thought it was “absolutely beautiful” that the movie showed a pregnancy care center that also houses the pregnant women and girls.
“Pregnancy care centers deserve attention and help. If people in our communities want to help to rescue women and their babies, to build strong families, one of the best ways to do that is to support our local pregnancy care centers.”
O’Connor concurred, saying, “Just like Kathy DiFiore, we can look to see how our own talents, resources, and experiences best equip us to fill this need.”
She added that “Gimme Shelter” helps remind viewers that women like Apple Bailey and their babies are “more than just a statistic.”
Hudgens' performance as Apple has won praise from movie critics such as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Cary Darling, who said she captures “both the defiance and fear of a girl at this life crossroads.”
Some scenes, such as when Apple and other shelter residence break into the shelter office to read their files, are “revealing and touching without being histrionic,” said Darling.
O’Connor said the film “does a great job of letting Kathy DiFiore’s work speak for itself.”
“Kathy's personal experiences inspired her to open these centers in New Jersey and affect the lives of many young women.”
O'Connor's work at the Chiaroscuro Foundation involves raising awareness about high abortion rates in New York City. There are over 73,800 abortions each year in the city – some 40 percent of viable pregnancies there. In some areas, abortions outnumber live births.
She said it is difficult to get accurate abortion data in New Jersey, the setting of “Gimme Shelter,” because reporting requirements are among the “least stringent.”
O'Connor added that it is “critical” to give more prominence to pregnancy centers.
“The more we as local communities are aware of them and their work, the more we can get pregnancy centers staffed with pro-life medical personnel for prenatal and maternity care, as well as equipped for counseling.”
“Imagine how effective our pregnancy centers would be if more people were aware of their great work and contributed their financial resources and talents to it.”
King noted that pregnancy centers are already numerous. “Today, there are more pregnancy care centers in America than there are abortion killing centers.”
“I think that’s wonderful.”