March 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The city of Melbourne - usually the source of Australia’s most depressing anti-life news - was recently the happy scene of the crowded launch of a new centre to support pregnant women.
On Valentines Day, more than 80 people turned out for the opening of The Babe’s Project Pregnancy Support Centre, in a shop front that was previously, of all things, an adult bookshop.
Within days of the opening, a young teenager and her boyfriend entered seeking help - and just two weeks later, the centre ran out of its pregnancy support packs, turning to pro-life advocates for support to keep the critical pro-life facility running.
Helen Parker is the visionary woman behind the project. In between her hectic schedule, she took some time to speak to LifeSiteNews.com.
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LifeSiteNews.com: Congratulations on the opening! How did you feel to see a long-held dream become a reality?
Helen Parker: Thank you! It was overwhelming to see a community come together and say, “it is not okay for women to be unsupported, so let’s do this together.” I knew there was a need. I knew we had support, but to see it eventuate into something tangible is amazing.
LSN: Tell us the story of how you first got the inspiration to create The Babes Project.
HP: I found out I was pregnant when I was 20 and studying at university. With very little support, I was confused and didn’t know where to turn and subsequently the doctor booked me in for a termination.
This was not at all what I wanted to do and I was alarmed at how easy this had been made available.
I proceeded with my pregnancy and soon after Ariel was born I started volunteering in the maternity ward of the local hospital. It was here that I heard recurring themes of how simply abortion was promoted, together with much experience of grief and loss.
When the abortion legislation changed here in Victoria in 2008, I knew it was time to go further, doing something practical addressing the needs of women terminating pregnancies because the felt they had no other option.
It was time to actively promote parenting and adoption as positive alternatives to abortion and to do whatever it took to see that reflected in the choices made by women in our communities.
LSN: Have you been able to help many women in your Pregnancy Support Centre since it opened on Valentines Day? What kind of things do the women who come through your doors say?
HP: We have already had women and families engage with The Pregnancy Support Centre looking for a variety of support. Most are looking for a safe place to chat and to begin talking through their circumstances. Some are still in shock after a positive pregnancy test, some are able to articulate further their own thoughts about possible options, but what we see from all women is a need for hope and reassurance about how their life might look in the future.
They want to see women doing life well who may have faced similar circumstances. They want to see that they still have value and that they can make great choices not only for their child, but also for themselves long term.
LSN: How much support is there for pregnant women in Australia? Are there many other centres like yours?
HP: We have been surprised to find very little support for women which works toward positive outcomes long term.
There certainly are a handful of pregnancy centres throughout Australia, some working effectively at reaching their community whilst others just aren’t being fully utilized.
Whilst we are aware of some centres which seem to be reaching a number of women, most are battling a nation where pregnancy centres outside abortion clinics or family planning aren’t common, and as a result they don’t seem to be accessed as we would hope.
LSN: What needs to change in Australia’s culture, government policy and law regarding adoption?
HP: Australia is a country with deep wounds from past adoption practices.
At a government level we need to engage in discussion about what adoption can look like and be committed to lobbying for reasonable change.
Once we see adoption working well, it is our hope that it can be embraced by women who might have alternatively chosen abortion.
There is an uphill battle ahead to bring change to Australian attitudes and legislation regarding abortion.
One thing we cannot underestimate is the value of connecting with local MPs and asking them to put positive adoption legislation on their agenda.
LSN: You produced a very moving video for the launch of the new centre. At the end of it you said that the pro-life movement in Australia needs to change. In what ways would you like to see it change?
HP: The Babes Project highly values the work and perseverance of the pro-life movement; we have met some wonderful people who have taught us much.
I do, however, think we could all go further in ensuring there are excellent services available for women and their families toward long-term positive outcomes.
She must have access to high quality assistance as she proceeds with her pregnancy in a loving, compassionate and non-judgmental environment.
It is up to us to see this become a reality.
LSN: What are the best ways to provide practical help for women in our own personal lives?
HP: Be engaged. Listen to her, encourage her and show compassion. Be willing to hear what you don’t like and learn from her. I think we could all challenge ourselves to take down the “us and them” walls.
The best way I learned about adoption was to spend time with a friend who once claimed “I hate adoption.” It was the best way for me to learn what needs to be addressed.
Then you do whatever it takes to ensure she has great support long term.
LSN: What kind of support have you received from people around the country as the word has spread about your project?
HP: We have received a wonderful outpouring of generosity and encouragement from many.
To open a centre and to make sure it is sustainable takes much time, finances, and a great team of people willing to get their hands dirty.
The most significant, however, has been from locals who are passionate about seeing positive alternatives to abortion promoted in their community.
We simply created a space for them to express their passion, which has seen many take part and build walls, install the kitchen, donate funds, lay carpet, and see this Centre transform into a safe, lovely space.
LSN: Finally, would it be okay to ask your daughter a question? Ariel, what do you think about your mum?
Ariel: My mum is cool, sweet, kind and funny. She can always make you laugh no matter how grumpy you are. She cares about others a lot, and is very understanding. I love what she is doing with The Babes Project and I hope our story will benefit lots of people.