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The Miraculous Way: A Maternity Home Offers Hope to Women in College (Pro-Life NC Part 1)

This summer marks the one year anniversary of the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the decision about abortion to the states. While this is a wonderful step in the right direction, the pro-life movement still has much work to do. This summer, Family Policy Matters will be doing a series of interviews highlighting the pro-life work being done across North Carolina.

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes back Debbie Capen, the Executive Director at MiraVia, to discuss what this maternity home looks like and how it serves women in college.

This episode is a part of a series highlighting the pro-life movement in North Carolina. Tune in each week to learn more!

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Transcript: The Miraculous Way: A Maternity Home Offers Hope to Women in College

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. This summer marks one year since the United States Supreme Court reversed its nearly 50 year Roe v Wade decision which forced the legalization of abortion in states across the country. Well as we reflect on this momentous anniversary, we’re excited to bring you a series of interviews with folks in North Carolina who represent the many facets of the pro life movement here in our state. Well today we’re joined by Debbie Capen, Executive Director of Miravia, the nation’s largest campus based residential program for pregnant college students, based in western North Carolina. College students facing an unplanned pregnancy are especially vulnerable to the lure of abortion, which promises a quick fix with little regard for the lifelong consequences for both mother and child. Well, what if these young women could count on support, tangible and intangible, for themselves and their babies during pregnancy and in the early months and years of life as a mother? Well Miravia strives to be that lifeline. Debbie Capen, welcome back to Family Policy Matters.

DEBBIE CAPEN: Thank you. It’s an honor.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: For those who have not heard about Miravia, what is your mission and how did you begin?

DEBBIE CAPEN: So Miravia, which is a word that’s a combination to mean the miraculous way, our mission is to serve pregnant women. We have actually two programs, we have an outreach center in Charlotte that helps women with all the tangible needs that a pregnant woman may have, but then we also have this unique program located at Belmont Abbey College that is a beautiful facility for pregnant and parenting college students. And this came about, we started in 1994 as a traditional maternity home in the Charlotte area, but then we were invited by Belmont Abbey with a donation of land to come and serve college students. And our women have come to us from literally all over the country. And it is this beautiful partnership, where now we have had women come from nine different states and 12 different colleges so that if they discover that they’re pregnant while they’re in school, they’re not forced to make decisions out of fear. They can come and live with us, adjust to becoming a mother, raising their small child, and live in community with other young women going through the exact same thing.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Now why college students? Why do you have a separate place for them, and do you provide anything academic wise for them?

DEBBIE CAPEN: Yes, it’s a very unique demographic. When a woman, especially if she’s attending a school that’s outside of her hometown, so college campuses can feel like an island. And it’s a very particular culture, it’s a special time in that person’s life that a disruption to that can seem devastating. And the board of Miravia saw also through other research, there’s a organization called Feminists for Life that did a study called Perception is Reality, that proved that when a young woman finds herself pregnant in school, they really don’t know what resources are available to them. And so by creating this unique atmosphere, where a college student feels comfortable, and they don’t feel like they are having to go and hide away or disrupt their education, it’s this beautiful environment where they can flourish. And this partnership with Belmont Abbey, they have really put their money where their mouth is, as well. They provide tuition assistance to the moms who come here and transfer to Belmont Abbey. And between the two organizations, we create this perfect environment for them where they can continue on their path that they already had of their career, and then help them to welcome this child into their life and get across the finish line and just have a win win situation for everyone.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Is this personal ministry to you in particular?

DEBBIE CAPEN: It is, I sadly made the tragic choice to have an abortion when I was in college. And at that time, there were no known resources to me. And sadly, I lacked that courage and the wherewithal of knowing how to deal with it. And when I went to my college health center, the only advice they gave me was that I could look up abortion in the Yellow Pages. And the beautiful part of this now is that that same college has now invited us back and we’ve met with the staff there and the nursing staff and they’ve invited us to their fairs. We’ve really found that if colleges have a viable option to present to their students, they’re more than happy to do that. It’s just that other organizations like Planned Parenthood have been there all along, saying, “Oh, we’ve got the solution.” You know, it’s up to us to provide that turnkey solution for students that they would not know how to put together themselves.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Are there other tangible assistance that you provide to the new mothers? What specifically do you do?

DEBBIE CAPEN: If you walked into our building, you would find this lovely facility where there are 15 private suites, so that every mom has their own living space, their own bathroom, their own bedroom, their own little kitchenette, and yet in the center of it all, are communal spaces for family style meals, and we have staff there 24/7. So we are providing not only the housing and the meals, but anything that they need, their clothing, baby items, car seats, strollers, and then the child care that they need, which is a key piece to that. We have a beautiful nursery here where their children can stay while their moms are at class or at work. And so those are all of the tangible things. But then it’s also the intangible, it’s the community that they build here. It’s the case management, we have a case manager that meets with each mother weekly, to help make sure she has everything that she needs to be successful. And it’s that combination of both the tangible and the intangible that support that they know that they’re no longer marginalized, they know that they’re a part of a vibrant and successful community.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So how long do the women stay in that facility?

DEBBIE CAPEN: They can stay with us until the child turns two years old. We would actually love for it to be longer. The State of North Carolina has some regulations around housing pregnant women, and so that is the most that we’ve been afforded through waivers is that they can stay with us for up to two years. But what we do is we work with them, like I said through that case management, that if they’re not going to graduate in the two and a half, two plus years that they’re with us, we have a plan in place of how they’re going to stay in school, how they’re going to have housing, so that it’s not just, you know, wishing them well that they really do have a viable plan in place.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So what about the community around this facility and around the school? Are they aware of what you’re doing? Are they helping you?

DEBBIE CAPEN: That’s the hard part, that’s why I’m so grateful to be here with you today. As a nonprofit, we don’t have a lot of budget for marketing and those types of things, and so it really is key that we try to maintain relationships with the colleges, with the pregnancy resource centers, with the community and church groups, because it’s such a short timeframe from when a woman finds out that she’s pregnant till she makes a decision of what to do, you may only have a few weeks. So we’re always trying to get the word out because most of the people do find us through referrals. And so from the very beginning of the referrals to all of the community groups, church groups, individuals that donate to us that help us to keep the lights turned on. It really is all about this connectedness throughout the community that allows us to be here and to do what we do.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Are you finding that the work that you do there is helping to change the mindset of these college women, that they have to abort their children to be able to succeed in their education or career? So are you seeing some progress?

DEBBIE CAPEN: Yes, we are. Seeing is believing, and every time a pregnant student is out on campus, she’s evangelizing just by being there. And before this, I always like to ask people when was the last time you saw a pregnant woman on a college campus? It’s very rare. And then once people see it, it normalizes and they’re not, it’s not something to be afraid of. And our residents are now in just about every profession you can imagine, you know, from nursing and teaching to legal, business, and they are carrying their stories out with them. And I think that the more that we can change the narrative, the more that people are experiencing this in their own families and their workplaces, it really helps them to understand that it’s not something to be afraid of. And one beautiful story is we had a mom here who was on a sports team at her school and at first, her teammates didn’t know what to think. And the truth is that Title IX protects women who are pregnant, they have every right to continue their education, their scholarships, their sports involvement. And after she had her son and her son was coming to her games, so many of her teammates told her, “We probably would have advocated for someone to have an abortion before seeing you.” And just seeing her and meeting her son and seeing the joyful life that she had, so many of them told her that it changed their mindset about the issue.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So let me play devil’s advocate. I think some people think, well, you know, this will actually make it look like it’s easy to have children, women will start to have babies in college just because they think it’s fun and it’s a hobby, or something ridiculous like that. Are you finding that kind of opposition or people pretty supportive all around?

DEBBIE CAPEN: The only people who have ever said that are people who have never been parents. So if you’ve, if you’ve had a child, no matter where you are in life, you understand how much work it is. It’s very rewarding work, but it’s certainly no walk in the park. These moms, they work very hard, they have extra challenges that may be you know, the person sitting next to them in class might not have although everyone has challenges, right? So this is just a different kind. And so I would say to that, that if anyone actually meets our clients or meets these people or their children, they would understand that no, this is definitely not an easy way out. But it is something that if it happens to someone unexpectedly, we want them to be able to take the next good step in their life. And that’s what we’re here to do.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So you mentioned public policy and regulations and how that might limit what you want to do. Have you found that there are some public policies that would help you if they were changed?

DEBBIE CAPEN: Certainly not my forte, I guess I can just speak to what I know in that, you know, for maternity homes, we have a lot of regulations, which are there for the safety and well being. So I’m not saying that those should not be in place. But I would love for it to be more collaborative as opposed to top down, where maternity homes are brought to the table for these conversations, and being able to have that give and take of what’s working, what’s not working, and that we can then provide the services that our clients really want and need.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So what kind of advice do you have for us? Because I can think, oh, every college needs to have this and there’s a crisis pregnancy center or pregnancy resource center, I guess, as we call them now, in Raleigh by NC State’s campus, you know, they need one, what can we, as we’re listening to you, do to assist you and to make a difference in the lives of the young girls that we may know in our own communities.

DEBBIE CAPEN: Thank you for asking. The easiest thing to do is if someone’s on social media, like and follow us and share our posts. I can’t tell you how many times people have found us through social media where they’re on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and even Tik Tok now. That’s the easiest thing right there. But also, if you are involved with your church or pregnancy resource center, community or civic organization, get to know us. Make those introductions for us. We can send a letter or make a phone call to organizations, but if they don’t have that introduction, it makes it much harder. If there’s someone that’s trusted between the two organizations, that builds that bridge, and I’ve discovered it really is about collaboration. And there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. You know, pregnancy resource centers play a crucial role in the colleges, and us, and the other organizations that support them. And I think my 10 year old daughter said it best, I was having a meeting with the pregnancy resource center staff and I was explaining to them what we do, and she said, “Oh wow, it’s kind of like an assembly line, huh Mom?” And it’s exactly, we all have our hand in this journey, this miraculous way that pregnant women are on and everybody can get involved and be one part of the solution.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay, great. Well, before we go, Debbie Capen, where can our listeners go to learn more and potentially to help share your social media posts regarding Miravia?

DEBBIE CAPEN: Certainly so our web site address is And then on social media we are Miravialife across the board. So just look for Miravialife and you’ll find us and hopefully you’ll see the pictures and be encouraged and want to get involved.

TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Alright, Debbie Capen, Executive Director of Miravia, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.

DEBBIE CAPEN: Thank you, Traci.

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