One Diocese’s response to the Dobbs decision

The Diocese of Arlington in Virginia, like many Catholic dioceses, has a long history of helping pregnant women and families in need.

(Image: Alicia Petresc/Unsplash.com)

What would you do if you were a college student already saddled with college debt and found out that you were pregnant? Or if you were an immigrant with a job but no family, and you were forced to live in your car because your boyfriend dumped you when you became pregnant? Or if you were happy to be pregnant but were stunned when your doctor informed you that your prenatal tests indicated a fetal abnormality?

The responses of some pro-abortion politicians and groups to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, on June 24, 2022, have been troubling, ridiculous, pathetic, or violent, but they all have two things in common. First, they all acknowledge that the ruling cannot be ignored. Second, they recognize that this Supreme Court decision will affect the lives of real women, right now. Social media is aflutter with dire predictions and bizarre fears about what this will mean for pregnant women.

But the reality is that forty-nine years of legalized abortion have produced, in response, a safety net of services for pregnant women all across our country. With little or no government support, individuals and communities have created a network of resources for women facing a crisis during their pregnancies, moms considering adoption, and pregnant women who need housing and material assistance. There are even services for the women and men who have been traumatized by participation in abortion. Despite what pro-abortion groups would like us to think, there are more pregnancy care centers offering support for pregnant women than there are abortion facilities in the US.

Rather than speaking only in generalities about abortion and crisis pregnancies, let’s examine what one specific community is offering for women and families in need. The Diocese of Arlington in Virginia, like many Catholic dioceses, has a long history of service in this area. Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington responded to the news of the Dobbs ruling with this promise to area Catholics and non-Catholics alike:

Through our diocesan and parish ministries and Catholic Charities, the Church of the Diocese of Arlington will continue to accompany mothers experiencing crisis pregnancies, and to provide pregnancy and adoption support, medical and emergency financial assistance, and care for those who have experienced abortion. We seek to remind these mothers—and fathers: You are not alone! We are here and ready to accompany you every step of the way.

What are some ways that this diocese helps pregnant women in need? According to Therese Bermpohl, Executive Director of the Office for Marriage, Family and Respect Life in the Diocese:

For over two decades, our diocesan volunteers have been walking with moms in need through the Gabriel Project. This parish-based pregnancy support system helps connect expectant families to resources and provides them the spiritual support and community they need to realize they are not alone in their choice for life.

In the Diocese of Arlington—just as in cities all over the country—”Gabriel Project offers emotional, spiritual, material, and financial support through a pregnancy helpline and parish-based volunteer ‘Angel’ support” (see the Arlington website here). Each participating parish gathers and trains a team of volunteers, nicknamed “Angels”, who walk with an individual pregnant mom and sort out her unique needs. Some women need transportation to medical appointments; some need material assistance; some just need a friend or mentor to talk to about all the changes brought by pregnancy and motherhood. Gabriel Project in Arlington also networks with pregnancy care centers such as this one and other services available in the local community.

The presence of legal protections for unborn children and their mothers, such as those now permitted in different states, tends to encourage women to seek alternatives to abortion. For example, Texas noted a 50% drop in abortions following its 2021 ban. It is therefore to be expected that more Gabriel Project volunteers will be needed to match the increasing number of requests for help.

Parish Respect Life leaders in the Diocese of Arlington have also chosen to respond to pro-abortion groups’ plans for a “Summer of Rage” with a Christ-like alternative: a “Summer of Mercy”. Pilot programs in parishes have already chosen a few different ways to offer compassionate care. One parish decided to spotlight “vibrant ministries addressing care ‘beyond the womb’”, such as Divine Mercy Care. Another parish will set up an information table every Saturday afternoon during the summer outside the church on a busy street to offer free referral information for women in need.

The Arlington Diocese also has a Gift for Life program. Parishioner donations to this program allow the Diocese to provide emergency rent and utility assistance, prenatal medical care for pregnant women, and mental health costs for those suffering after abortion. Parishes often participate by putting up an Advent Giving Tree with ornament cards, allowing parishioners to mail in their donations.

Another unique program that started in Virginia and is spreading across the nation can be found at the HerPLAN website. HerPLAN or “Her Pregnancy and Life Assistance Network” is a comprehensive online directory of material, medical, and social services, currently covering four states. This network facilitates collaboration between communities, churches, and those providing assistance to pregnant women, such as pregnancy care centers. The directory at HerPLAN helps volunteers identify resources to meet the need of each individual mom, such as baby items, transportation, medical services, and counseling.

Many women—and men—have participated in some way in an abortion, and they are all in need of healing and our compassion. The Arlington Diocese, like many Catholic dioceses, offers healing and mercy to these women and men through healing retreats, counseling, referrals, and a hotline. Project Rachel, a ministry of the USCCB which was founded by the late Vicki Thorn in 1984, has brought a message of hope and healing to grieving people for decades.

Of course, every state has different laws regarding abortion, and the effect of the Dobbs ruling will vary from state to state. How did the Dobbs decision affect abortion in the state of Virginia, for example? According to Amy McInerny, Respect Life Director of Arlington:

It is important to understand that, while Dobbs repaired the crack Roe put in our Constitution by stating explicitly that there is no constitutional right to abortion, Dobbs did not make abortion illegal in Virginia. In fact, it remains the case that abortion is legal through all nine months in our Commonwealth, in certain instances.

Does that mean that Virginians are forced to accept legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy? McInerny sees reason for hope in grassroots action:

We need to understand that Dobbs returned to the people of the states the power to regulate abortion laws and that we, the people of God, must remain engaged with our elected representatives and vigilant at the time of every election. While our Governor and House of Delegates support life, the Senate has blocked all significant legislative progress to protect expectant parents and unborn children. Senate elections will be held in November of 2023, and we have more work to do to ensure that we vote for those who pledge to defend the most vulnerable among us—the unborn.

Each diocese, each parish, and each community of our country face their own challenges in finding ways to serve pregnant women and families in need in a post-Roe world. But every woman in an unplanned pregnancy is a person created in the image of God, as is her unborn child, and deserves individualized support and care from those around her. As Catholics, we can do nothing less.

Remember those three imaginary women described at the beginning of this article? They are not imaginary. Their situations are not even that unusual. Pro-life volunteers are just as ready to help them today as they were before June 24, 2022.

• To find out how you can help women and families in need in the post-Roe world, contact the Family Life office at your own Catholic diocese or archdiocese.


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About Dawn Beutner 103 Articles
Dawn Beutner is the author of The Leaven of the Saints: Bringing Christ into a Fallen World (Ignatius Press, 2023), and Saints: Becoming an Image of Christ Every Day of the Year also from Ignatius Press. She blogs at dawnbeutner.com.

8 Comments

  1. What a great article – thank you so much for these words of encouragement!!! Post-Dobbs is not so much a time to trumpet victory as to redouble our efforts to support and accompany those contemplating abortion.
    I suspect that here in the UK we Catholics are a long way behind the USA, so why not head over here, Dawn, and shake up our bishops?

    • Thank you so much for commenting. Ironically, as the pro aborts chant in front of the clinic we pray in front of, “Abortion is Health Care”
      It’s not the way they mean it clearly, but there are issues where the mothers life is in danger physically, and where the decision has to be made to save the mother. But that’s it. Beyond that it’s a lost culture. Abortion is an excuse for the huge abortion houses to make money. Abortion is an excuse for some men to believe the world revolves around them and their dramatically selfish idea of why God created the sexual experience for Husband and Wife. Much to do…a culture to reeducate, to relearn that God and family need to be our greatest earthly goal.

  2. “But every woman in an unplanned pregnancy is a person created in the image of God, as is her unborn child, and deserves individualized support and care from those around her.”
    .
    Honestly, “unplanned pregancy” needs to be stricken from the phrase book. We need to stop kidding ourselves: reproductive activity is, well, reproductive, and if a baby is created, that isn’t really a surprise.
    .
    Also, where is the father in all of this?

  3. How is it that we have not heard the media or politicians mention the murders of all these babies. I am appalled that nobody seems to be interested in the welfare of a child. They would be more upset if this was happening to dogs or horses. We are so out of touch.

  4. Contact Dr Ozigidon if you have been trying to conceive, I never thought I’d be writing this message but after 5 years of infertility and nearly lost my marriage due to not being able to have a child after suffering from PCOS and my TUBES ARE TIED, and severe endometriosis and scanning, I was told that IVF was the only option. This was something we could not afford and had almost given up hope of becoming a parent. A friend of mine recommended Dr Ozigidon to me and persuaded me to contact him, I finally contacted him and he made a spiritual breakthrough to get me pregnant with his powerful spell, within 2 weeks I was pregnant (naturally!!!) and my tube was untied as instructed by this powerful sorcerer. Now! I gave birth to healthy twins in February. I am writing this testimony for those women who are facing the same challenges or even more, depressed with no light at the end of the tunnel. Give Dr Ozigidon a try to help you solve your problem, and hopefully you’ll have the same success that I have had. His email address (drozigidonhnez.spell. net @ gmail. com). I wish you all happiness in your marriage.

  5. In the July 5, 2022 edition of the WSJ there is an op-ed piece entitled Elizabeth Warren Smears Pro-life Charities. It is written by Christopher Bell of the Good Counsel centers and describes the help and support they have been providing for many years. In it he invites Sen. Warren to visit and observe what they do every day of the year.

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