More often than not there are enterprises within our communities that we know nothing about. But when little-known organizations have an outsized impact on improving lives, it becomes obligatory for everyone to know.
Such is the story of Kentucky's pregnancy care centers (PCCs)—faith-based organizations that help women in the middle of unplanned pregnancies. Of course, it's much easier to rationalize "that's none of my business," but not for the staff and volunteers at 50 PCC's located all across Kentucky. They make it their business to provide resources and invest in the lives of women walking a lonesome path. Such work has garnered commendation from Gov. Bevin and the Kentucky legislature which honored Kentucky's PCCs with a formal resolution back in April.
Alpha Alternative Pregnancy Care Center, located in the Southern Pennyrile region of Western Kentucky, offers free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, peer-counseling, diapers and clothing for moms to be. But according to Executive Director, Amanda Westerfield, it appears the most important commodity they offer is hope. Many of the women come from broken homes, bad relationships and find themselves in a place where abortion for an unplanned pregnancy seems the best choice.
"The main thing we want to do is to make sure that women are aware of all of their options," Westerfield said "and we do that in a loving way." Westerfield reminded me that they avoid the word "pro-life" not because they aren't but because it may be divisive—conjuring images of ugly placards outside abortion centers with blaring loudspeakers shouting condemnation at women. Alpha has a different tone.
Alpha emphasizes compassion and grace. After all, many of the women who work or volunteer there have faced an unplanned pregnancy. Some have had an abortion and they'd rather convey grace than guilt.
According to a recent report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute there are over 2700 PCCs located in every state across the country. More than 67,500 volunteers (7500 are medical professionals) have served more than two million women and saved communities $161 million in medical costs in 2017. Seventy percent of the PCC's offer free ultrasounds and the majority of the women who see the picture of their unborn child choose life for their child.
PCC's began in the late 1980's as an extension of the pro-life movement that wanted to more than just protest and shut down abortion centers. The latest trend is to take the show on the road, moving out of their offices and finding people where they are. They call it "going mobile."
Alpha Alternative is the only PCC in Kentucky with a mobile unit. Parked between McDonald's and Rooms for Less furniture on Fort Campbell Boulevard in Hopkinsville, sits a 31-foot RV with the Alpha logo splashed on the side. I visited the mobile unit to interview Heather Hawkins who is the director of the unit. I stepped out of the 90-degree heat and into an air conditioned camper which looked more like a doctor's office, complete with exam room and ultrasound machine.
Hawkins shared her story about an abortion she had when she was 21 and the decade of drug and alcohol addiction that followed. Her secret and shame nearly killed her but she turned her trauma into a ministry seven years ago and dedicated her life to helping women just like her.
"We have women who come onto the mobile, right after they've been to a Planned Parenthood," Hawkins said, "and sometimes [we find] they're not provided accurate ultrasounds." The mobile units gives women a glimpse at the life in their womb. The units larger presence reminds communities throughout Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee that there are life-affirming choices available to women in tough situations.
When such options are presented to women, it threatens the viability of abortion businesses. One year ago, Alpha's mobile unit began offering free weekly ultrasounds across the street from Nashville's Planned Parenthood clinic. The clinic shut down in August.
Westerfield shared a story of a frightened mom who said she wanted an abortion before the fetus developed feet and hands. She asked how far she was in her pregnancy. "Three months," she said. After Westerfield told her it's too late she broke down and cried. "I don't want to have the abortion then." Alpha walked her through the pregnancy and because of it, a tiny human being once viewed as a choice was welcomed into the community.