Aug 19 2007
NORMAN — University of Oklahoma student Jenae James never thought she would be a mother at 23.
And when she first learned she was pregnant, she didn't think she could carry her full-time school and workload with a baby.
It turns out, she can do it all.
With the help of Care Net Pregnancy Clinic in Norman, James decided to have her baby over urgings from some to get an abortion. Her daughter Avery is 6 months old, and James is set to graduate from OU in May with a degree in sociology. She plans to go to graduate school.
What most women don't know, and what James said she learned through talking to counselors at Care Net, is that having a baby doesn't have to completely change your life.
"Women have an abortion because they are scared and don't know what to do,” James said. "I just needed to talk to someone.”
‘Anybody is welcome here'
The Care Net Pregnancy Clinic — which has served Cleveland County since 1996 — is moving into a new building at Robinson Medical Plaza, funded through a $92,000 grant from a private foundation to allow for an expansion of services.
The clinic offers free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds for women who want to see the fetus before making a decision to abort. Recently passed state law requires that women be told before having an abortion that a free ultrasound is available. Testing for sexually transmitted diseases will begin in 2008, which will bring more traffic to the clinic, officials say. Counseling and parenting courses also are available for women at the clinic.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who is an obstetrician and was at the clinic's open house last week, said the Care Net clinic is an important part of the anti-abortion movement in Oklahoma. Though the goal of the clinic is to show women how they can have their babies and either raise the babies themselves or look to adoption, Coburn said nurses at the clinic present all the options without pressure.
"The important thing is to help women without judgment or condemnation,” said Coburn, R-Muskogee. "We want to say to them, ‘We will love you no matter what you do.'”
Women who decide to have an abortion are free to return to the clinic for counseling, Coburn said. As for the ultrasound services, Coburn said most women who get a chance to see the fetus do not go on to abort.
"We believe in informed choice,” he said. "That is real care, not political care.”
Religion does not play a role at the clinic, though it and many other Care Net affiliates receive funding from local churches and the Christian Focus on the Family network, Coburn said.
"Anybody is welcome here,” he said.
But officials with Planned Parenthood said clinics like the one in Norman often use "medically inaccurate or incomplete information to dissuade women from obtaining abortions.”
Keri Parks, director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood, said she has no direct knowledge of the practices at the Care Net clinic but said "crisis pregnancy centers are generally anti-family planning as well as anti-choice.”
"Crisis pregnancy centers ... often discourage women from using the most reliable methods of birth control, leaving them vulnerable to unintended pregnancy all over again,” she said.
New laws have impact
House Speaker Lance Cargill said the clinic is a perfect example of how the public and private sector can partner together to reduce abortions in the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control there were 6,644 abortions performed in Oklahoma in 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
Lawmakers can pass "legislation that promotes a culture of life, but government doesn't have all the answers,” he said. "Government has a role to play, but alone we can't be successful,” said Cargill, R-Harrah.
Oklahoma's abortion laws have been tightened during the past three years, requiring written parental consent before a minor can have an abortion and giving women more information about the unborn child and the procedure itself. This year, a bill was passed that bans state dollars from being used to perform abortions except in the case of rape, incest or saving the life of the mother.
The interim executive director of Care Net Pregnancy Center, Crystal Drwenski, said the organization plans a marketing makeover by the end of the year, making the center more relevant to those in the 18-to-24 year old age bracket. The clinic location should be open by the end of the month, she said.
The group already has raised $175,000 in private donations so far this year but hopes to raise at least $100,000 more by the end of the year to continue to offer free services to women, Drwenski said.
"I dream of the day we can shut the doors because the laws of this land respect the sanctity of life,” she said. "This is not just a new building; this is a revival of compassionate care in the pro-life movement.”