Six years ago, when Angelique Saavedra got pregnant and decided to pursue an open adoption, she didn’t have anyone to lean on. She did some online research to try to find a support group, but her searches turned up only conservative religious-affiliated groups that counsel women who regret their abortions — something that she says she didn’t identify with at all.
It was another few years until Saavedra finally stumbled across Backline, an organization that describes itself as providing “unconditional and judgment-free support for people in all their decisions, feelings, and experiences with pregnancy, parenting, adoption, and abortion.” When she called their national talkline, she finally had an outlet to discuss what it was like for her to choose adoption after her unintended pregnancy.
“They helped to normalize my experience, and they helped me feel like I wasn’t alone,” Saavedra told ThinkProgress. “It was just a refreshing organization.”
Backline has been connecting women like Saavedra with over-the-phone counseling and support for the past ten years. Now, the organization is expanding those services to in-person support groups at its first physical center in Bloomington, Indiana.
I wish I had this when I was struggling with my decision.
The All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center had its grand opening this week, and ultimately hopes to model a new way forward for approaching decisions related to reproductive health care. Saavedra will work at the new center as a volunteer. “I’m really excited because I wish I had this when I was struggling with my decision,” she said.
Backline seeks to bridge the gap that’s been widening between so-called “pro-life” and “pro-choice” resources for Americans facing decisions about an unintended pregnancy.
Right now, it’s a pretty safe bet that a clinic with “pregnancy center” in its name has an explicitly pro-life agenda. Commonly known as “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs), these right-wing organizations are a powerful arm of the conservative movement. They’re often branded as women’s health clinics, and many of them are attractive to patients because they offer free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, diapers, and baby clothes. But the staff at CPCs aren’t medical professionals. They use misleading information and deceptive tactics to try to dissuade women from choosing an abortion.
On the pro-choice end of the spectrum, the staff at abortion clinics offer real medical services, and won’t overstate the health risks of having an abortion. But those facilities may not have the type of material support — like diapers — that some of their struggling patients need. Or they may not have any staff members on site who have detailed information about how to navigate adoption.
Parker Dockray, the executive director of Backline, has a new vision. “I have this sort of fantasy,” she told ThinkProgress. “If every Planned Parenthood had a closet of diapers and baby clothes, what kind of impact would that have on their patients, and could that also really remind people that 61 percent of people having abortions have already given birth to a child?”
The All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center will have both diapers and baby clothes, as well as support groups for people who are parenting. There will also be free pregnancy tests, peer counseling, and counselors to talk to about abortion and adoption.
Most importantly, Dockray says, there won’t be any kind of an agenda; instead, there will be an acknowledgement that people’s lives are complicated and pregnancy experiences are varied. Real people don’t always fit neatly into the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” boxes that have defined the political debate about abortion for decades.
“The truth is that abortion, and parenting, and pregnancy loss can all be things that are coming up for someone at the same time. But it’s really hard to find a place where you can bring all of those things to the same conversation,” Dockray said. “As Rachel Atkins first said years ago, there aren’t women who have abortions and women who have babies. Those are the same women, at different points in their lives.”
There aren’t women who have abortions and women who have babies. Those are the same women.
There’s a lot of potential for other groups to strive for this type of integrated approach. Backline also works on providing pregnancy options workshop training for homeless shelters, perinatal clinics, domestic violence centers so the staff there doesn’t have to be limited in what type of information they’re comfortable talking to people about.
About 50 people gathered at All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center’s grand opening on Sunday, ranging from toddlers to retirees. They got a tour of the new clinic’s offices, peer counseling rooms, and support group spaces.
In a testament to Backline’s mission, the new center doesn’t appear to have sparked much controversy in the larger context of the abortion wars. Although grand openings of new abortion clinics are often plagued with demonstrators outside the building, there weren’t any protests on Sunday. In fact, Dockray said she was pleased that the executive director of Bloomington’s local crisis pregnancy center attended the event.
“I’m really looking forward to working with pregnant people to meet all of their needs,” Saavedra said.