The Last Abortion Clinic
  • home
  • watch online
  • abortion wars
  • shifting attitudes
  • map
  • discussion

barbara beavers

beavers

She is the director of the Center for Pregnancy Choices, a Christian-affiliated, pro-life center in Jackson, Miss. Since opening in 1988, more than 11,000 women with unplanned pregnancies have visited the center, where, in addition to receiving pregnancy tests and counseling, they can attend prenatal, sex education and parenting classes. Their attendance at these classes can be used as currency toward purchasing infant and maternity products available in the center's "store." Here, Beavers describes some of the practices the center employs for convincing women not to terminate their pregnancies, including using sonograms in counseling, providing assistance during the baby's first year, and refusing to refer to abortion clinics. She also explains the center's Christian background and approach, and why it doesn't teach about birth control or refer for adoptions. "… [O]ur mission statement [is] to deal with a woman who has an unplanned pregnancy," she explains. "And her choices are abortion, adoption, parenting. She has basically those three choices, and we want to give her full information about all those choices." This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on July 22, 2005.

So I want to just first talk about the center you direct. Tell me just a little bit [about] what the center does, what your mission is and what your role is there.

I'm the director of the Center for Pregnancy Choices. We're a pregnancy resource center. Our mission is to empower women to choose life. We were formed in 1988 in response to the abortion situation in that we wanted to do more than just say, "Abortion's wrong." We wanted to come alongside the women and help them so that they could choose life for their baby. … Our mission is to make abortion unnecessary in the state of Mississippi. We want to make it so no woman feels compelled or pressed like that's her only option. …

[What's your story? How did you get involved with this movement?]

And my story was, when I went to [protest at] an abortion clinic and saw the women having abortions, I thought, it's me. I identified immediately with the young women that were going to have abortions, and but for the grace of God I didn't conceive in my wild college years. And had I, I would have been going to an abortion clinic. I'm quite sure of that in myself. And I thought, I would need somebody there to speak the truth to me in love. That's one of our missions at the center, is to speak the truth in love. We want to speak the truth, and we'll make sure it's done in a compassionate, loving and tender way, hopefully so that it can be understood and received as mercy and grace and not judgment and condemnation. …

About three years later, there was a movement of pregnancy resource centers [opening] across the nation. [That's what] they called them then: crisis pregnancy centers. And we said, "We need one of those in Jackson where we go that can be a quiet, peaceful place, … where the girl can come and have her pregnancy test and find out about her pregnancy apart from the furor of the immediate crisis thing." …

… Can you talk to me a little bit about why you went from the Crisis Pregnancy Center to the Center for Pregnancy Choices and [about] taking back the word "choice"?

The sonogram machine has just been a great advance for an abortion-minded or abortion-vulnerable lady, for her to be able to see her baby and personalize that little one.

[After] we opened in 1988 as the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Jackson, an organization, Focus on the Family, did a marketing analysis for us and encouraged us to remove the word "Crisis" from our name, because women facing unplanned pregnancies were no longer identifying it as a crisis; they were identifying it as a choice. So our board of directors -- we wanted to keep our CPC logo and all of that, so one of them suggested we become the Center for Pregnancy Choices, using the same initials. And we just latched on to that, because we really feel that identifies who we are. We are the Center for Pregnancy Choices; that's what we are dealing with.

… So if a person were to ask you what are the actual choices, the choice is to keep your baby, right, because [you don't really encourage] choices other than having a baby?

We believe the initial pregnancy choice begins with deciding whether or not to have sex. Every sexual encounter has a potential for creating a child, regardless of what kind of birth control, regardless of what kind of precautions or whatever you use. Any kind of sexual encounter has the potential for creating a little one, so we want to talk to girls about that pregnancy choice and are they making good decisions and good choices with that.

… And we want to help women, empower women to think better about themselves, to not give away their sex free, to make those men make a commitment and a marriage and a ring and all that before they get their sex, to value themselves and to love themselves. And so we're working with the prevention aspect of pregnancy choices in our Sexual Integrity Program. …

But then there's the choice in the crisis of what to do, and that is really our call. That's our mission statement: to deal with a woman who has an unplanned pregnancy. And her choices are abortion, adoption, parenting. She has basically those three choices, and we want to give her full information about all those choices. We want to talk to her about abortion; we want her to be fully informed about that. We want to give her information about adoption. We don't do adoption services, but we can refer her for those. … And then there's parenting.

None of those choices are easy; none of them are simple solutions. But there are good choices, and there are bad choices, and we do believe that abortion is a bad choice. We believe that abortion is a choice that they will live to regret. And we want to empower them to choose life, whether it be parenting or adoption. … And we want to encourage women to carefully consider their choices, and have all [the] information about all their choices, so they can make good choices that they can live with and be comfortable with for the rest of their lives. …

So tell me if a woman came to you and she says, "Gosh, Barbara. I really think I do want to have an abortion, [and] I've really heard everything that you have to say." What do you do with her then? Do you refer her to a place to get an abortion?

We do not refer to abortion clinics or abortuaries; that wouldn't be life-affirming. One of our core values is to be a life-affirming agency, and so we don't make referrals for abortions. We do have girls that come to us, and after all is said and done, and even [after they have] seen the baby and gotten all the information, they say, "OK, where can I go for an abortion?"

And we don't refer for abortions; we don't give them the numbers of a clinic, because that, to us, would be harmful to her health. That would not be helping her, though she thinks it would.

… We offer information on all options. We don't do adoptions, [but] we do refer for adoptions. We don't do abortions, and we don't refer for abortions. That's where we stand; that's our core values. We can't go against our core values, to do something that we think would be a bad choice and would be unhealthy for her. …

What do you actually offer when the women decide to have their babies?

We want to do more than just say, "Oh, don't have an abortion." We want to help her. We want to come alongside her and assist her with her needs, … to help with that baby even after it gets here. Our services go up until the baby is a year [old]. We have diapers, tons of diapers. We have strollers. We have baby beds. We have baby clothes. We have maternity items for her. We have parenting classes for her, to teach her if she's never had a baby … what to expect with her child, with childbirth, those kind of things. … And it's all free. All of our services are free of charge. We do it on a point system.

In the early days, we just gave stuff away, but we felt like they needed more than stuff. What people really need are education, information [on] relationships, things like that. So the girls come, and we have classes, and we interact with them, and we teach them about how to bathe the baby and how to massage the baby, and they earn points. … And then they can go and spend those points for items in the store that we have.

Now, if there's ever an emergency -- of course, there are emergencies that arise -- we've got plenty of baby stuff and baby items, but we [also] have lots of help, practical help, that's very encouraging: … "I can help you with diapers; I can help you with baby furniture; I can help you with the material things to help you through with that baby until you can get on your feet."

And that's a part of every center. … We have about 23, 24 of them now, pretty evenly spaced about, and we'd like them to be very easily accessible. We want pregnancy resource centers easily accessible for the women of Mississippi. …

What about abortion? … [Y]ou told me that you actually want to make abortion unnecessary in Mississippi, and unattainable in other words. So that, at least in the state of Mississippi, there would be no way to get an abortion. Talk to me about that.

We don't believe that abortion needs to be easily accessible to the poor women of Mississippi. I think that's hard for some people to understand -- why we wouldn't want it to be easily accessible -- but we think abortion is bad medicine. We think it hurts women. … We think that it hurts babies. And we want them to stop doing that in Mississippi. We want Mississippi to be a safe place for every baby here. We want every baby in Mississippi to be guarded and protected and cared for, and we don't want there to be places where our babies are being killed. We don't want [it to] be convenient and easy for that to take place. …

But what do you think about women going across the border. Even if you eliminate abortions in Mississippi, [won't they still go across the border to another state]?

We understand that when we get rid of the abortion clinic here in Mississippi -- which we can see, we can envision -- we understand that some will still seek abortion, and that they can go across the state border to do that. But one of the big things about abortion is that it's so often a quick thing. It's so often a hurried thing. It's a spontaneous, "Oh, my land, I'm pregnant. I've got to take care of this right now. I've got to deal with this." Having some time to think about it, having some time to make some arrangements is not a bad thing. It's not an unhealthy thing for her to have to think a little bit beyond, "I can run over here and get this taken care of, and it will be done." Some more time to ponder, to get more information, to look at her options more carefully, to consider her options, may [give her time to] find some support she didn't know she had, some things like that. …

Well, before '73, one of the big reasons that prompted Roe v. Wade to come into place was because women who wanted an abortion were getting illegal abortions; awful things were happening to women. And when I look at what's happening in Mississippi, my question to you is, if a woman wants to get an abortion, most likely she's going to figure out a way to have it, and if there's no place to get an abortion, what happens to these girls? Are you concerned about them?

The numbers [of abortions] have increased exponentially since it became legal. Legality gives abortion a certain credibility. [It] makes it OK. It's legal, but it's not right. It never will be right. It never will be, and a woman knows that. …

… We want to make abortion unnecessary. That's our pregnancy center calling. We want to make it unnecessary so a woman with an unplanned pregnancy has a place to go where she can get help, and she can give life to that baby and life to herself. So we don't want there to be places in our neighborhoods where babies are being killed. That's important to me. This is my space. This is my space.

Every baby we lose diminishes us all. I really believe that. I believe each baby is a gift from God. I believe that each baby is unique and special and has special things that will never be again. And I want our babies in Mississippi to be safe. I want them to be protected. I want them to be guarded. And if a woman wants an abortion, I want her to have to go someplace else to do it and not do it here.

[But] when you look at the statistics, a lot of the neighboring states actually absorb women coming from here. … So does it really matter if you make Mississippi abortion-free if girls are going across the border to Alabama and Louisiana?

I don't think it's many who are going across the border. I don't think there [are] many abortions when it's not easy accessibility. I think the numbers are going down, and I think that's a good thing.

Everybody agrees abortion should be rare. … Then let's not have so many abortion clinics. Let's get rid of them. Hey, let's do it. Let's make it rare.

So here's a statistic for Mississippi that confuses me a little bit. You have kind of a very low abortion rate compared to the nation. It's one of the lowest.

Good.

But you have the highest infant mortality rate in the country. What do you make of that situation? There's no way you can actually compare the two directly. It's not like because there's a low abortion rate there's a high infant mortality rate. But Mississippi is poor, and a lot of these women have a hard time accessing health care. … What do you make of this high infant mortality rate?

As far as the high infant mortality rate, we need to do better. We need to offer more. There needs to be more help for that. … [But] I think the immediate crisis right now, though, is babies dying [from abortion]. …

… Come on, let's get honest about infant mortality. Infant mortality includes those that are dying right after birth and those that are dying before birth. That's infant mortality. So in that way, Mississippi's not doing too bad. And Mississippi needs to do better. I'm not saying we're doing good, I'm not saying we're doing what we should do, but I'm saying that those two numbers need to go together. …

This is the thing. I'm going put it out there. I know there's a big push for abstinence-only education in the schools in Mississippi.

Right.

And not just in Mississippi -- all across the country. … Do you support it? What is your feeling on it?

We want to do away with the "abstinence" word. We think abstinence is kind of a "no" word, kind of a negative word. We want to talk about sexual wholeness and sexual healing and sexual health. And we don't believe that birth control methods are effective in curbing unplanned pregnancies. So many of my clients have birth control pills. They have access to all those things. They're not using them. They don't use them correctly.

I don't feel like that's the answer. I feel like the answer is an internal answer. It's dealing with who they are and valuing themselves and their worth. … And we don't use [that word] … because abstinence says, "No, no, no." And we say, "Yes, yes, but in the correct parameters and boundaries that sex was intended for and designed for, where it's safe and where it's healthy and where it's good."…

Well, I guess here's my question for you: Realistically speaking, teenagers are having sex. I'm going to give you another statistic about Mississippi, which is maybe interesting to you: You have the third highest teenage pregnancy rate in the country. So something is going on. Young girls are having sex. So if you teach girls how to actually use birth control and use condoms correctly and properly, then doesn't that prevent the eventual decision about what they're going do with an unplanned pregnancy?

I don't believe passion submits to control. I think passion does not obey the control methods that we try to put on kids. I think we need to teach the children their value and their worth and the value and worth of their sexuality, and that we need to instill in them a respect for themselves.

And I think that if we give them, in addition to that, the birth control stuff, it sends a mixed message. I believe that we don't need to send to our young people a mixed message that says, "Don't have sex, but if you do use this." I think that's mixed for them. I think that's not clear enough for our young people.

I think we need to be adamant about "Wait until marriage to have sex. … That's when it's safe. That's when it's good. That's when it's healthy. That's when you have the best sex." … And I'm against us giving them both messages. I think we're supposed to tell them what to do. We tell them not to smoke, we tell them not to take drugs, and we tell them not to have sex.

And when they do, which they do, … they know that that is not approved, acceptable behavior, that it's unhealthy behavior for them to do that, and that they need to stop or the results will come that they don't want. Their actions have consequences. … It's imperative that they learn to control those things. And it's imperative that they evaluate why they're doing it. What is driving them to [premarital sex]? Are they receiving the results that they want to receive from that? We've got to get below the surface to the issues in their heart that are driving them to that irresponsible behavior and minister to those needs.

And [the Center for Pregnancy Choices] is not ever going to give them a condom or birth control … from an organizational standpoint. [We] don't feel like it works. One of the things we say is, "You just can't teach somebody to sin safely." Just can't do it. So we're not going do it. …

… You're a Christian organization?

We are a Christian organization. …

… So the counselors, that I see in here … [are they all Christian]?

… They are varied. We are all so very, very different. Our commonality is that we do have a love for Christ Jesus. … We are at our core a Christian organization, but we come from all different denominations and all different backgrounds and all different histories.

And I always say [that] the one thing you have to do to volunteer at the center is know you're a sinner, and know that but for the grace of God you'd have an abortion, because we don't want anybody that is going, "How could somebody do that?" That's not the spirit that we're of. We have to be aware that any of us could do that, any of us could have an abortion given the situation. So we all know we're sinners. …

… [But] a couple of girls I talked to had no idea what kind of center it was, necessarily. A lot of them walk in and don't know … that it's a Christian organization. They just walk in the door. Is that part of the idea?

Yes, it is. The church hasn't always been a safe place for women with pregnancies out of wedlock. It's not been safe. And girls with those kind of fears can not necessarily go to the church. … They're scared to go to church a lot of times if they're fearing a pregnancy. So we do not advertise as a Christian organization. We want them to see Christ when they come. We want them to see His mercy and His grace and His goodness and all that when they come, but we don't want to be telling them that. We want them to see it, and we want them to feel it.

And so not advertising as Christian is definitely a part of the strategy. … People have trouble with our name. They're thinking, are you trying to sneak and deceive, because we're the Center for Pregnancy Choices, but we intentionally chose that name because we want to take the word "choice" back. We believe choice is a "God word." And we believe we offer choice at our center. … They are free to make whatever choice they wish, but we want them to feel like they really have a choice, that there are those that will help them and support them and give them the encouragement and the strength to make a good choice. We believe that there are good choices and bad choices, and we think abortion is a bad choice. But it is a choice, and we don't deny that. …

… You've been doing this for a while, what have you found are the most useful things in convincing a woman not to have an abortion?

The sonogram machine is a wonderful addition to our services in that it personalizes the baby for the mama, and it makes the baby not just a baby; it makes it her baby, and it makes it real. She sees her baby that she can't feel, that she doesn't know is there, except that it's maybe making her sick in the morning. But it's hard for her to realize what is going on inside, and that sonogram opens "a window to the womb," they say, and lets her see what's going on inside.

So the sonogram machine has just been a great advance for an abortion-minded or abortion-vulnerable lady, for her to be able to see her baby and personalize that little one. … It helps her bond. She's resisting bonding. A woman that is considering abortion is resisting bonding; she is just denying the bonding process. She's really going against her nature as a woman. It's in our nature, as women, to nurture and to protect and guard. And she is resisting that by trying to deny the reality of the little one that she's carrying.

[Do you feel that by having the sonogram machine, you are seeing that more girls will actually keep their babies?]

Yes. The sonogram does personalize the baby. When we started in '88, you could show them a fetal model, and they'd say, "That's what's going on inside me?" And they would identify it. But as the culture has adapted and adjusted to the prevalence and prominence of abortion, just seeing a model is too distant. It's not real.

But when they see the sonogram, and they see their baby, and they see that little heartbeat that is not their heartbeat -- it's going much faster than theirs, flickering in there -- that makes it real. Reality's a good thing. We run from reality, but [what] reality brings is life. It's hard, but running from it, denying it, is not good.

… So you told me when I was with you last that one of … the challenge[s] is when to actually have a girl have a sonogram. If she comes in a little too early, you usually wait a couple of weeks to have her come in when they can actually see the sac and see the heartbeat. … So how do you use the sonogram machine like that?

Yeah, that is always an interesting thing -- when to do the sonogram. … The rationale for a sonogram is that before she makes an abortion decision, she needs to make sure she has a viable uterine pregnancy. An abortion would be unnecessary if the baby was not viable. … There is a high rate of spontaneous abortion or miscarriage early in pregnancy. So why does she want to deal with an abortion if that's unnecessary? So we offer them a sonogram to see if there's a viable uterine pregnancy.

We can usually get a positive pregnancy test a few days after a missed period. And some of the clients come in right at that [time]. If she's willing to wait for a few weeks, we'll be able to determine more accurately. If she's not, we'll go ahead and show her what we see. … It's up to her if she wants the sonogram that day or if she wants to wait. If we get a real little one, we'll ask her to come back in two weeks and see it in two weeks, because the change in two weeks is profound. …

… But part of the strategy, if they come in too early, you ask them to come back in two weeks so they can see something. But sometimes that means you lose. … Is she really just going to run out and get an abortion, or would she come back in two weeks when she can actually see something?

Babies start out really small. They start out really little. And some of the girls that come to our center considering abortion … come when they've missed their first period. And some of them, when they come at that point, if they have a positive pregnancy test, the baby can be very small, and it can be difficult to pick that baby up and to see that baby on the sonogram.

So we're faced with the decision about whether or not to do the sonogram at that point when they first come in. And sometimes, if we do it at that time, we won't see anything, and then she will be able to take comfort in the fact that there wasn't anything there, and she'll go ahead and have an abortion. Or if we can, we'd encourage her to wait a few weeks. But if we encourage her to wait, she may not come back to see what we see. So we have to address each situation individually. It really is up to her, too: Does she want to see what's there now? And we can alert her that we may not see anything in the real early stages. …

…One of the things that we're looking at is the history of the pro-life movement and … that there was a revolution along the way that the focus shouldn't just be on the child but on the mother, the woman. Tell me about that revolution.

I think probably that the pro-life movement did get started because of the atrocity of destroying a baby. But by the time we opened the center, it was just real evident that you weren't going to minister to that baby without ministering to the mama; that if you wanted to help that baby, you needed to help that mama. And if you help that mama, then you'd help the baby. So the pregnancy resource centers and pregnancy help centers are there primarily to minister to the woman. …

I think that initially maybe there were other aspects of the pro-life movement that maybe [did] focus a bit more on the baby, because in the early days, too, the thing was education. We didn't know that much about the baby. There was a lot more ambiguity about when was a baby a baby, you know? And there's not really that much ambiguity anymore. That's pretty clear. …

I was hoping you can talk a little bit about the Jackson clinic specifically -- the last abortion clinic [in Mississippi]. You said that you guys were looking in to how you could close it by moving next door. Tell me about the strategy to actually close the last clinic here.

Well, our primary strategy for closing the last clinic in Mississippi is prayer. It's prayer. We just believe that abortion is a spiritual issue. There's a deception about abortion that it somehow helps women. … People are blinded to the truth that abortion destroys babies, … little human beings, but human beings nonetheless that are worthy of respect, that are worthy of protection and guard.

[When] we moved in … our church had purchased some property, and our hope was to move adjacent to that abortion clinic, but it proved unnecessary because the abortion clinic closed down before we moved in. We would not be opposed to that here with this last remaining abortion clinic. …

Our desire would be for them to just stop the abortions. If they would stop killing babies there, we would be delighted for them to remain [open] as some kind of health clinic or help center giving prenatal care and help to women. But we want them to stop killing babies in our city and in our area. …

home + introduction + watch online + the abortion wars + shifting attitudes + interviews
map + related FRONTLINE: "abortion clinic" + discussion + teacher's guide + readings & links
producer's chat + tapes & transcript + press reaction + credits + privacy policy
FRONTLINE home + WGBH + PBS

posted nov. 8, 2005

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
photo copyright ©2005 corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS