There are alternatives to abortion

  • July 10, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - “God don’t make no junk.” You will find these words printed on a wall of pro-life posters in the second-floor office of Birthright co-president Mary Berney.

Birthright, the world’s first international crisis pregnancy service, is one of several organizations which provide alternatives to abortion. Some pro-life advocates say not enough is being publicized about these options for women.

Berney’s office is filled with paperwork related to Birthright’s worldwide operations, including Africa. Just down the hall in another room is a closet full of donated maternity clothes.

At Birthright’s Toronto and international headquarters, two female volunteers, along with Berney, are ready to answer the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week hotline for pregnant mothers in crisis.

Birthright also offers free pregnancy tests as well as help in finding social housing and a doctor.

Berney stresses that it is not a medical or professional counselling centre but Birthright will help women find a doctor. It won’t provide abortion referrals.

Berney’s mother, Louise Summerhill, founded Birthright in 1968 in Toronto. It has grown to more than 400 chapters around the world.

Berney said Birthright is an independent organization which is not affiliated with any church or government agency, seeks to provide non-judgmental help for women and tries to steer clear of politics. Among its accomplishments, Berney said its volunteers save at least three babies a day out of the six to 10 daily calls and visits from women worried about their pregnancies. She estimates Birthright has helped at least two million women overall.

And during its 40 years in service, Berney said the biggest change has been the increase in the number of young women seeking help who have had abortions.

It’s a trend Jenny Webb, office manager of Toronto Right to Life, has also noticed. Although the group’s mandate is educational advocacy, over the seven years Webb has worked for the pro-life group, she has answered calls from women of all ages, from 16 to 43. It is usually women in their late teens or early 20s who call.

While Toronto Right to Life also does not provide professional counselling, Webb said she refers women to groups like Birthright, depending upon the woman’s situation. She also provides numbers to agencies which provide free clothing, baby food, diapers and other necessities.

Among the three weekly calls on average that the group receives, Webb remembers talking to a 19-year-old woman who already had four abortions and was contemplating a fifth one. Webb said the woman asked her where she could get an abortion. Instead of an abortion referral, Webb talked to the woman about the risks of having the procedure, including its potential impact on a woman’s ability to have future children and its psychological and emotional impact.

Webb said Toronto Right to Life is clearly listed under the Yellow Pages under “abortion alternatives” and that it will not refer abortions, but she said perhaps women who call them want to hear the negative side effects of abortion.

And Webb said women who have called and already had at least one abortion “are not being given all the facts.” They’re being told that abortion is “perfectly safe, just like having a tooth pulled. It’s just a blob of tissue,” they are told.

Other resources for women include Rosalie Hall, which provides community counselling and outreach, drop-in day care and peer mentors for pregnant teens in Toronto. Toronto-based Second Chance Ministry offers one-to-one spiritual counselling and a support group.

Berney said it’s important to offer women options.

“We’re here for them. We listen, we offer friendship, we offer caring,” she said.


Resources for pregnant women/post-abortion healing ministry

Aid to Women in Toronto. Call (416) 921-6016, e-mail

Birthright International is nationwide. Call 1-800-550-4900, see

Calgary Crisis Pregnancy Care Centre. Call (403) 269-3110, see

Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services. Call 1-866-845-2151, see

Crisis Pregnancy Centre of Winnipeg. Call 1-800-665-0570, see

Pregnancy Concerns in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, B.C. Call (604) 939-2633 and 1-800-395-HELP (after hours), see

Project Rachel is a nationwide post-abortion healing ministry. Call 1-888-355-1110, see

Rachel’s Vineyard is a nationwide post-abortion healing ministry. Call 1-877-HOPE-4ME. see

Second Chance Ministry in Toronto is a post-abortion healing ministry. Call (416) 261-7135, 905-430-7990, e-mail

Sisters of Life in Toronto is a religious community called to pro-life ministry. Call (416) 934-0606, see


Resources for Single/Teen Parents

Rosalie Hall: A young parent resource centre in Toronto. Call (416) 438-6880, see

Rose of Durham serves expectant/parenting young people in Durham Region. Call (905) 432-3622, see

Rose of Sharon provides services for pregnant teens, young mothers and their families in York Region. Call (905) 853-5514, see

Vita Manor in Peel Region provides counselling and help finding financial assistance. Call (905) 858-0329, see

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