Pregnancy resource centers have been described by opponents as fake clinics that exist to frighten and misinform women so that they decide to keep their baby, but the truth is that these organizations are the backbone of the pro-life movement across the country.
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Wendy Bonano and Melinda Delahoyde from Gateway Women’s Care to discuss the many ways that pregnancy resource centers support the pro-life movement. Gateway has three locations across the Triangle and offers a variety of free and confidential pregnancy and sexual health services.
You can learn more about Pregnancy Resource Centers in North Carolina here.
This episode is a part of a series highlighting the pro-life movement in North Carolina. Tune in each week to learn more!
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. We continue our month long series on North Carolinians who represent the many facets of the pro life movement here in our state. This is in celebration of the one year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court. Today we’re joined by Wendy Bonano and Melinda Delahoyde of Gateway Women’s Care, which has three locations in the triangle area offering free confidential pregnancy and sexual health services. Wendy and Melinda, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: Thank you, Traci.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right, let’s start off by sharing, if you would, some of your background on what brought you to Gateway and also how you got involved in the pro life movement altogether.
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: This is Melinda. I have been involved with pregnancy centers for 40 years, really from the beginning of that movement. And I call it a movement because it was something that God just laid on people’s hearts across the country. There was no big business model or anything like that. People just believe that in their own communities, they wanted to help women who are pregnant. And out of that, the National Organization of Care Net came to have probably 1200 pregnancy centers around the country. But all of them were run by individuals at the local level.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Tell us a little bit about where you came from that point on.
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: From that point on, I began writing manuals for pregnancy centers and speaking to large groups of pregnancy centers about things like development and advertising and all those things that go with setting up a nonprofit organization. And at one point, I served as Care Net’s president, so I got to see all of the pregnancy centers, pretty much, around the country and the wonderful work that everyone was doing in their own community. And then I came to Gateway six, six and a half years ago and became Gateway’s president and we have a center in Raleigh, in Durham, and in Chapel Hill now.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So Wendy was a part of Gateway before you came along, and she had been running the center for several years, Wendy talk a little bit about your pro life background and how you ended up at Gateway.
WENDY BONANO: I had moved from Australia to the states with my young family in 1997. Never heard of a pregnancy center. The abortion movement in Australia back then was very underground. I come to the States, and it’s this outspoken, vigilant two sided issue that I began hearing about, and I was encouraged to volunteer at Gateway, and it only really opened it’s doors downtown on Hillsborough Street. And so I began as a volunteer in 2008, and came on staff in 2009. I was running the center down on Hillsborough Street for a few years and then executive director in 2012.
And this is a ministry, Traci, that once you taste it, you just cannot get it out from under your skin. God has really drawn my heart to this cause, to the hurt that women experience and our desire to be able to provide care and refuge and an alternative decision for women and support them in that decision. So I feel very strongly about the ministry, and the services that we provide, and the role that Gateway plays now in three cities across the Triangle. That’s my journey, and then Melinda joined us and we’ve enjoyed working together and being able to lead and guide the ministry.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Tell us a little bit more – for people who may not be familiar – what pregnancy resource centers do, because these centers are a favorite punching bag for pro abortion folks, especially Planned Parenthood. Perhaps you could talk about why you think that is, and here’s the chance to kind of clear up some of the fallacies that they might throw out about you in the media.
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: I think what we would say is that we empower women to choose life for themselves and for their unborn children. There is no kind of coercion, there’s no kind of false advertising or anything like that. We empower women as they come through our doors. We meet with them and ask them questions like what are you feeling now? What are your needs? What are you thinking about and really giving her a chance to explain how scared she is, that she doesn’t know what she’s going to do, and just listen. And out of those questions that we ask start to build a relationship with her, she then is able to receive a free ultrasound and actually know how far along she is, and then we can look at resources for her. And a question that always keeps coming to our minds, because we see many abortion determined women who say, “Well, I can’t have this baby, I have all these plans for my life, and this won’t work.” And if there’s ever a moment when we can say something like, “Could you imagine a scenario where you could have your education and your dreams? And your baby could also have a life? Could we just talk about that for a minute?” Those are the kinds of questions that we ask beside her and without in any way coercing her or leading her in any direction.
WENDY BONANO: And I’ll touch on that second part of your question, what the country thinks about pregnancy centers. And it’s an unfortunate development, but it’s kind of like a lie can be told once and you may not listen to it, but if someone hears the same lie over and over again, it becomes truth. And so pregnancy standards Traci, really the only long lasting organizations that combat Planned Parenthood and the private abortion industry, we are the only place between that woman and her decision to go to an abortion clinic. And pregnancy centers have been in this country for 40-50 years, and so they have lasted where other agencies may have faded, and therefore they’ve become the enemy of the side that believes a woman’s best choice is abortion. And so the country is very divided.
I think every pregnancy center gets lumped into the same bucket, but what we at Gateway strives to be is our own unique location in three cities that will embrace women, regardless of what they’re choosing. We want to love on them so much that even if they walk away and still choose abortion, that they will say there was a place where people loved them and cared for them. And you know, what ends up happening, there’s a second pregnancy, and they come back to us. And so we want Gateway to be that kind of place. We don’t want to fulfill the criticisms that the opposition has of us, and so we don’t manipulate and we don’t bait and switch. We are honest, our nurses educate these young women on fetal growth and development and understanding the risks and procedures of abortion, and we really let women make the decision for themselves.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Alright. So I know, Wendy, that you work in the centers, talk a little bit about who you primarily serve. And I know you said each center is unique, you guys have centers that are close to some pretty major college campuses, don’t you?
WENDY BONANO: Right, yes, the one on Hillsborough Street is within two miles, I think, of seven universities and colleges, over 50,000 students. And that was primarily why Gateway was established in that location. And then we have one in Durham, which is less than half a mile from the Planned Parenthood and the private abortion clinic in Durham, and then one in Chapel Hill, which is midway between UNC and Planned Parenthood in Chapel Hill, which is the largest Planned Parenthood in the state.
And so we are primarily here to reach and serve the woman who believes abortion is her only option. We want to reach the most determined women and have her come to us and have an experience that she’s not expecting and to see if she can pause and take some time. Because what we discover is that most women don’t want an abortion, they just think they don’t have a choice. And so if you can help a woman to slow down, to take some time, God has created us with amazing capacities to problem solve, but sometimes it just needs time. And so women need time to step away from the immediate drama of, “Oh my gosh, I’m pregnant, and I don’t need to be and I don’t want to be.” And so we help women through that process. And they have an ultrasound and then help them with some information that they need. But really, it is a process to slow down their rush to the abortion clinic to see if they want to and can come up with a plan for their life. We have staff members like social workers on our team that can help create personal care plans for every woman that comes to our front doors right up to the point to when she has that child and for the 12 months afterwards. So they’re the services that we provide but the most abortion determined women are the ones that we seek to reach and serve and love on
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Speaking of these abortion determined women, I would imagine since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we have found ourselves to be an abortion destination state, which was a bit surprising to me, I guess, that the states around us had stricter abortion laws. What have you seen as far as your clientele and the determination of some of these women since Roe v. Wade was overturned?
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: We’ve seen several changes since Roe v. Wade was overturned, and you know, that was an amazing decision that the court made, that there is no constitutional right to abortion, but it didn’t do everything. And I think one thing that it has done is it’s caused the opposition to rise up and become much more vocal, you know, realizing that this right to an abortion is going to be restricted.
And so what we see are women who are afraid and who don’t know what to do and are looking for all the things that Wendy’s talked about. So we are seeing more abortion determined women, and the slogan that we often say is, “Find her first.” We want to find her before she goes to the abortion clinic, especially now, after the Dobbs decision when there’s so much panic in the air and in the lives of these women about “What’s going to happen to me?” You know, the opposition is stronger and risen up, but on the other hand, it’s given us more women to serve and more opportunities to save lives.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: How can state policies and laws also help or hinder what you’re trying to do?
WENDY BONANO: That’s a really good question Traci, and back in 2011, when the Woman’s Right to Know Act was passed, my belief is that that was one of the most significant pieces of pro life legislation in terms of what it enabled us as a pregnancy ministry to be able to do, because that piece of legislation said that a woman needed to receive certain information, initially, it was 24 hours before her abortion, and then it became 72 hours before her abortion.
So that opened an amazing opportunity for us to market ourselves to these abortion-determined, abortion-bound women that come to us first to go through that Woman’s Right to Know education called informed consent, so that she knew exactly what it was she had the right to know. Did the abortionist have any malpractice suits against him? Did he have liability insurance? Did he have privileges at the local hospital in case of an emergency? She had the right to see an ultrasound, she had the right for numerous things that most women weren’t even aware of and didn’t even know to ask. And so it gave us a great opportunity to be able to educate her so that she could advocate for herself, that she was more informed and educated. And we have clients of ours that would ring the abortion clinic and ask for the abortionist’s name, and when the abortion clinic would not tell them the name of the abortionist they’d ring us back. Like “They won’t tell us the name of the abortionist.” Where else would that happen, that you wouldn’t find out the name of whoever was performing the procedure? And so that particular law, I think, has been the most significant that we’ve noticed in the work of Gateway over the last 15 years.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: I hope that people who are listening think to themselves, I would love to get involved with such an organization. And of course, I’ve always loved pregnancy resource centers, and I was on your board years and years ago. But the cool thing about it, I think and as you’ve already mentioned, there’s a lot of noise out there about abortion, but these pregnancy resource centers dotted all around the state, all around the country, just work quietly meeting these women in their local communities. Tell us how people can find out about these organizations where they can volunteer,
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: North Carolina has one of the largest amount of pregnancy centers of any state in the country. And we’re fortunate to have Lifelink Carolina so that funds are available to our pregnancy centers, as well as all the donations that come in from individuals and different places. But I think if somebody’s looking and saying “What do I do,” they should look in their local community for the pregnancy center, because volunteers may be needed, resources may be needed, funds are needed, trainings needed. There’s so many ways you can be involved in your community and helping with pregnancy centers. And so many times people will say in our smaller communities, well, we don’t have an abortion clinic in this town. But you may not have an abortion clinic, but you do have women facing an abortion decision every single day and those women need help and care and support and understanding of what their options are. So if you get in touch with the pregnancy center in your local community, I would pretty much guarantee they will find a way for you to become involved in these ministries.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And if people would like to have more information on Gateway?
WENDY BONANO: They can go to our supporter website, Traci, GatewayFriends.care.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay, and if they want to refer a young woman who has an abortion decision in her future, where would they send her?
WENDY BONANO: To our client facing website, which is GatewayWomens.care.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay, thank you so much Melinda Delahoyde and Wendy Bonano with Gateway Women’s Care. Thank you so much for joining us today on Family Policy Matters.
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