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Australia pregnancy help network seeks to expand assistance for women to isolated communities

by | Aug 31, 2023

By Gayle Irwin

Shianne felt overwhelmed when she learned she was pregnant. Already a single mother of five, the Australian woman didn’t know what to do. Learning about a nearby pregnancy resource center, she found hope, help, and encouragement to continue her pregnancy.

“It was a bit shocking,” Shianne said about finding out she was pregnant. “I was confused and very sad. My own head was telling me I couldn’t do it.”

She discovered Eva’s Place where hope began to dawn.

“I was told I had time,” she said. “I did some mentoring and some counseling. If I had a concern, we’d talk it out. It was comforting.”

Shianne found the courage she needed through the encouragement and resources she received and several months later, she gave birth to a baby girl whom she named Grace, and whom she referred to as, “The apple of my eye.” 

Eva’s Place is one of several pregnancy resource centers found in Australia, and as such, provides free, confidential, caring pregnancy services. The organization receives referrals in a variety of ways, including Pregnancy Help Australia, a larger group that assists centers in the region and maintains a hotline number. Shianne’s concerns upon learning she was pregnant centered around adding another child to her family and included her ability to go through “sleepless nights” and the impact of having a baby on her career. She found reassurance and understanding at Eva’s Place.

Pregnancy Help Australia (PHA) wants to ensure other women experience that understanding, encouragement, and hope. In June, the organization hosted a special giving day, known as #PHAGivingDay, through which donors could contribute to assist pregnancy centers in Australia through their donations. Through social media such as Instagram, Pregnancy Help Australia raised more than $25,000 in June.

“It’s like #GivingTuesday here,” said Andrea Trudden, vice president of communications and marketing at Heartbeat International. 

Organizations “hone in on” a specific project, program, or mission to which donors can contribute, she added. According to the latest Heartbeat Life Trends, PHA’s network consists of 24 pregnancy help centers in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania.

Developing ‘Hubs of Love’

Another initiative, called “Hubs of Love,” seeks to open additional pregnancy resource centers in isolated areas of the country. The donation page notes, “… the heartbreaking reality is that many pregnant women across the country don’t have access to a local pregnancy hub, leaving them feeling like motherhood is an impossible journey. By planting new start-up centres (#hubsoflove) where services are currently unavailable, we can elevate our isolated sisters and ensure they have the support and nourishment they deserve. With your donation, we can make a difference and bring essential resources to these centres.”

The organization goes on to say, “Once a new Hub of Love (pregnancy help centre) launches, our statistics show that an additional 500 women will receive help per year on average. That’s 1000 hearts that could be in your local neighbourhood!”

Helping women around the world

Pregnancy help organizations serve women no matter where they live, and Shianne’s story is similar to many of those who seek and find help from those organizations.

“Pregnancy help centers provide vital assistance to women during one of the most challenging and possibly transformative periods of their lives,” said Tracie Shellhouse, vice president of Ministry Services for Heartbeat International. “The support that was given to Shianne … [is] vital for those who are facing an unplanned pregnancy because we know the best alternative to abortion is another person, and that local pregnancy center provided that support that she needed….”

She added, “We are all created for relationship, and it’s important that when we’re facing difficulties, we have others that step up alongside [us], and pregnancy help centers do a beautiful job of that.”

“Pregnancy help is something that is needed everywhere,” Trudden said. “It’s good we have organizations like Pregnancy Help Australia that caught the vision from what we were doing here in the States and expanded a network of pregnancy help in their communities. We’re seeing that, of course, world-wide, and I think it’s just a fact that a woman could be anywhere at any phase of her life on any continent, but there’s always a moment where a little bit of extra encouragement and compassion is needed in order to help her realize the value that she has … and that she can still achieve her dreams even when challenges arise. Just being there for her in that moment of light in a world of darkness is always appreciated, no matter where you are in the world.”

Eva’s Place

PHA is among the more than 950 organizations affiliated with Heartbeat International outside of the United States in 89 countries and territories.

“Pregnancy centers exist all over the world, whether abortion is legal or illegal, because they provide loving care and confidential support for a woman facing pregnancy, whether planned or unplanned,” Trudden said. “They will take the opportunity to walk through the moment [with a client].”

Offering the opportunity to reflect and talk about her present fears and concerns and considerations for her future gives a woman “a moment of pause” and time to discover ways to “overcome” challenges they perceive, she added. That can include, as in Shianne’s case, already being a mother. “I’m already working 60 hours a week at two different jobs, and I want to be certain I’m able to care for my older kids” is a comment Trudden said she recently heard one woman say.

“That brings a different level of complexity,” Trudden said. 

However, “they have support and they have resources” from pregnancy help organizations, she added.

Pregnancy centers remain viable through economically challenging times

Perception and reality can meld, especially regarding finances. With rising costs and increasing inflation, women and families currently face greater challenges, especially economically. Yet, pregnancy centers remain a viable option to help jump those hurdles.

“We’re encountering inflation of historical proportions,” said Shellhouse. “We’ve seen food prices rise, and housing and living expenses have become exorbitant. Those are real problems for those who are raising families, whether they’re experiencing an unplanned pregnancy or not. I definitely believe there’s a heightened pressure on women to respond in the midst of a crisis to make rash decisions … We’re seeing outside forces saying, ‘This is not a good time to be raising a child – there’s too many unknowns.’ Yet, we know there’s real support, and there is real help. But that doesn’t lessen the difficulties they’re facing … but what we’re saying is, ‘You don’t have to face them alone.”

Pregnancy centers exist “to meet the need that is there” when a woman faces an unplanned pregnancy, she added. 

Trudden agreed.

“Our pregnancy help organizations are there to guide them and help them tap into the resources available in their community,” she said.

She learned she didn’t have to sacrifice her career or her child

“Keeping the vision of her future at the forefront is also part of what we do,” Trudden said. “We can truly help her to achieve her dreams. We know how strong and capable women are.”

“Unplanned pregnancies will continue to be something that women face,” Shellhouse said. “These women deserve respect, support, and hope. They can find [that] in the pregnancy help movement.” 

Shianne discovered that at Eva’s Place. She learned she didn’t have to sacrifice her career or her child. 

“Shianne, as she shared about her experience, said she felt like she could breathe again,” Shellhouse said. “She was supported, and that she had time. I think it’s important that, when we’re facing a challenge, or something that seems like a crisis, that we have opportunity and the space to slow down, understand all of our options, be educated, and understand all the resources we have available. A local pregnancy center provided that for Shianne and her family. Every woman deserves that opportunity, and the power of pregnancy help provides it.”

Those factors and that help led Shianne to view her situation differently. In the beginning she thought, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this” and through the services and provisions received at Eva’s Place, she determined, “I know what I’m doing.” 

“That is empowerment,” said Shellhouse. “Women are created in the image of God, and we have the great opportunity to make wonderful decisions for our families, and so Shianne, being empowered, allowed herself to successfully lead and love her family, including baby Grace, and that’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Editor’s note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News where this first appeared. Reposted with permission.