New Strategies to Support Mothers

As a mother of six, Leah Jacobson is watching other parents try to raise children in a society that no longer supports sisterhood among mothers. And that’s a shame, said the founder and president of the Guiding Star Project, a Duluth-based organization seeking to combine under one roof a variety of holistic health care services for women and families.

“If we stop duplicating services and start using donor dollars to share space...we can save thousands and thousands of dollars that can be directed to services” and better compete with Planned Parenthood through brand power, said Jacobson, 34, a parishioner.

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“This is so much bigger than abortion. This is about supporting motherhood,” she said.

Forty-three years into legalized abortion in the United States pro-life advocates say their mission to save babies is broader than preventing abortions. These same advocates from several Minnesota-based organizations have been working to change how pregnancy resource centers operate in the era of smartphones and other technologies.

Pregnancy resource centers want to be clear that they strive to serve women with authenticity and sincerity because they care about them and their situations, said Sarah Mealey, a marketing and strategic planning consultant who helped streamline a merger of two established pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the Twin Cities to form Abria Pregnancy Resources last fall.

“And in the process, we hope and pray that she chooses life,” Mealey said.

Focusing on a woman’s or family’s needs during an unexpected pregnancy or other volatile time allows pregnancy resource centers to earn trust and build relationships. Mealey acknowledged that while some affiliates of the pro-life movement might prevent abortions through shock or shame, advocates are asking, “At what cost?”

“We want these young women not only to choose life, but also to be effective, strong parents, or to choose adoption,” said Mealey, who serves on Abria’s board and is a parishioner of Holy Family in St. Louis Park. “A lot of these women don’t understand the inestimable worth of their own soul, and so they can’t possibly understand the inestimable worth of their child’s soul.”

Abria Pregnancy Resources is located within five miles of 10 colleges and universities and a dozen low-income neighborhoods, positioning it to reach people in need of its services. It is also across the street from the state’s only Planned Parenthood site.

Mealey said Abria’s biggest challenge is reaching millennials, who are highly engaged through mobile devices and also are most likely to have an abortion. That is why Abria’s website is mobile-friendly, and staff members are capable of providing information by online chat and texting. The next goal is to create a mobile app, Mealey said.

Under the Guiding Star model, a variety of fertility, pregnancy and medical service providers are considered tenants in a space the nonprofit owns. Jacobson said tenants agree to Guiding Star’s philosophy statement and are willing to work with others.

Jacobson said full medical clinics are the way pregnancy resource centers truly can compete with Planned Parenthood, especially with services that accompany women’s needs. “We’re really hoping we can eventually do mammograms.”

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