I’ve written about the Culture of Life, and I’ve written on the need for there to be a true spectrum of choice for men and women who find themselves pregnant with no options other than abortion. If choice means anything, there needs to be more than one viable choice in the face of a pregnancy.
Guiding Star in North Philadelphia has been providing alternative choices to abortion for women since 1992. The Christian Science Monitor explained Guiding Star’s mission in 1998 as “making motherhood an option,” and that remains a great way to describe it. Temple’s College of Public Health once highlighted the fact that “volunteers are paramount” to Guiding Star.
In a culture where Planned Parenthood is seen as the only authentic voice for family planning, Guiding Star represents a radically more authentic approach for women looking for affirmation and support.
But because the single-outcome politics of Planned Parenthood often starves authentic alternatives like Guiding Star from receiving public support, places like Guiding Star have always struggled to survive. The Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia has supported Guiding Star for many years, and we’ve always endorsed their vision, which is why their board of directors decided to merge their organization into ours to ensure not only survival, but growth. From the announcement earlier this year:
Guiding Star provides housing for expectant mothers and their children, as an alternative to abortion. This program is unique in the Philadelphia region in that it welcomes both pregnant women and their children. We are proud of our decades-long partnership and grateful for this opportunity to create an even stronger continuum of care for women and families in our city.
The Pro-Life Union regularly encounters abortion-vulnerable women through our sidewalk counseling, prayer vigils, and Pregnancy Hotline. With this change, we are already working to expand Guiding Star in several key ways:
- Increase the number of women and children served with safe housing annually
- Create a Family Center where Guiding Star clients in the community can receive baby supplies, gently used clothing, furniture, etc
- Expand social services for residents and clients including counseling
- Expand programming for residents and clients including parenting workshops, job training, and mentor support.
Why does a woman need a place like Guiding Star? It turns out, often because abortion is seen as the only option. Not by the mother, but maybe by the father, who says he won’t love her if she has the child. Or maybe by her parents, who threaten to kick her out of the house if she doesn’t abort.
These are the unacknowledged realities that Guiding Star exists to answer. I was grateful to be able to visit today for their Christmas party, and to be able to think through the future of this work.