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Problem Pregnancy marks 30 years of baby-saving efforts in Worcester

Posted By January 24, 2013 | 1:17 pm | Lead Story #2
Rod 2012 40daysWEB

By Tanya Connor

“The girls that are pregnant today have never lived in a society where abortion was considered bad. The rationale is, ‘If it’s legal, it must be OK.’ It’s very much changed from when I first started,” said Kathy Lake, a volunteer counselor and board member of Problem Pregnancy of Worcester Inc.
Problem Pregnancy is observing its 30th year of saving babies, as pro-lifers across the nation lament the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalizing the killing of unborn babies. The pro-life pregnancy testing and counseling office was borne out of a failed effort to stop Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts from opening an abortion facility in Worcester. And yet for its 30 years its volunteers have saved countless lives.
Mrs. Lake, of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in West Boylston, has been volunteering with Problem Pregnancy since about 1987. She does ultrasounds and counseling.
When asked why they continue to do it, Roderick P. Murphy, who’s been Problem Pregnancy’s director and chairman of the board for more than 20 years, talked about a recent “amazing” week. “We had seven babies – mothers changed their minds from abortion to life” at Problem Pregnancy’s office at 495 Pleasant St. in Worcester.
To what does he attribute that?
Another longtime volunteer, Rita Nealon, of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Milford, said she had been trained to counsel women in crisis pregnancies for Lifeline in Milford, which was associated with Catholic Charities.
When Problem Pregnancy sought trained counselors, she helped there too. Her association goes back to December 1982 when Problem Pregnancy opened its office down the corridor from the new Planned Parenthood “reproductive health care clinic” which performed abortions two days a week. A pattern of legal skirmishes between the pro-life and pro-abortion groups began shortly after they both settled in to 340 Main St.
“We were doing some hallway counseling,” which Planned Parenthood “didn’t particularly care for,” Mrs Nealon said.
Planned Parenthood apparently “didn’t care for” it so much that they took Problem Pregnancy and the Commerce Building owners to court, according to accounts of the first years from Catholic Free Press files.
The landlord posting “no loitering” signs near Planned Parenthood. Problem Pregnancy said it would keep its picketing outside.
“Father Tony stayed outside,” Mrs. Nealon said of Father Anthony S. Kazarnowicz, a Worcester diocesan priest now an army chaplain in Kansas, who for years worked with Problem Pregnancy. “He’d talk quietly with the girls: ‘We can help you.’” He carried a crucifix.
In 1984 a judge ordered Problem Pregnancy to put a crucifix on its door while Planned Parenthood was contesting the simple PP logo it used.
“We had Jewish volunteers, born-again volunteers, Catholic volunteers,” Mr. Murphy said. “A crucifix is a Catholic thing. I think it just showed how stupid and ignorant the courts are.”
Problem Pregnancy eventually was ordered to change the PP sign on its door and later forced to move to a different building the landlord owned at 390 Main St.
When Planned Parenthood’s lease ran out in 1992, the landlord did not renew it.
Planned Parenthood planned its move to Lincoln Street and pro-lifers worked to prevent that too. But in 1993 Planned Parenthood opened at 631 Lincoln St. The next year Problem Pregnancy leased, and later bought, the building next door.
When Planned Parenthood was to ready move again, Mr. Murphy organized a 10-taxpayer group to petition the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Determination of Need Program to stop it from operating in the city. In his testimony at a hearing at Clark University in 2008, he asked that Planned Parenthood’s current permit be canceled. Planned Parenthood supporters advocated moving to 470 Pleasant St.
The pro-lifers lost, but weren’t defeated.
“We moved to 495 Pleasant St. before they finished the building” at 470 Pleasant St., Mr. Murphy said.             Problem Pregnancy continues trying to stop abortions from that location.
Some people pray or do sidewalk counseling outside. Others offer free services inside Problem Pregnancy. Mrs. Nealon said these include a pregnancy test, counseling, perhaps help with paying bills, a layette shortly before the baby is due, sometimes an ultrasound.
When the agency got its first ultrasound machine in the 1990s, 85 percent of the mothers who had an ultrasound decided against abortion, Mrs Lake said.
“Today the girls are much more self-centered,” she said, even though the new ultrasound machine donated by the Knights of Columbus gives them more information. “It (the ultrasound) certainly does help … but we don’t have those statistics anymore.”
But, Mrs. Lake said, when abortion-minded women learn they have twins, they usually decide against abortion. This happened in all but one case she worked with. Abortion-minded women also get concerned about  the baby if the heartbeat is not loud or when they learn that the baby might not be viable, she said.
“It’s a weird dichotomy; it’s not normal,” she said, but added that it’s not normal for a woman to kill her baby.
“We just have to have the attitude that we’re doing the best we can and saving as many babies as we can,” she said.
“We have a bunch of great women who do counseling,” Mr. Murphy said. “We always need money. We also need baby food, diapers, car seats, Onesies, all that kind of stuff.”
“Everybody’s a volunteer,” he said of Problem Pregnancy workers. “Nobody ever got paid.”
Besides the personal presence, today “we’re using online services to help us get more clients,” Mr. Murphy said.
Problem Pregnancy’s new website is to be up shortly. It is designed to fit on a mobile phone, will allow people to text them and has Hispanic and campus pages.
And babies are saved at their other office, Problem Pregnancy of North Quabbin at 105 Main St., Athol, which is not near an abortion clinic, he said.
Problem Pregnancy serves people of any faith or no faith, but most volunteers are Catholics and the Worcester office has a chapel where Mass is celebrated weekly and the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, Mr. Murphy said.