ROANOKE RAPIDS-Hundreds of people celebrated “A person is a person, no matter how small” Thursday night at the Pregnancy Support Center’s annual fundraising banquet. The words made famous by Dr. Seuss in Horton “Hears a Who” stressed the importance of honoring life to everyone at the Kirkwood Adams Community Center.
People brought gifts for mothers and babies. They lined the stage from one end to the other. Diapers, car seats, blankets, bottles, all the things a little one needs when they first come into this world. Mothers-to-be go to classes and earn vouchers allowing them to buy baby items in the “Baby Boutique” at the Center. “They have to earn these things,” said Executive Director Jennifer Marchant. “We don’t give them hand outs.”
Listening to the conversations from table to table, it was amazing to find out how many people were talking about their children. There were people from all walks of life — business, politics, homemakers and the church community. Each one expressed pride. There was a lot of laughter and understanding nods.
Keynote speaker Melissa Ohden came to share her story of how her daughter almost wasn’t born, not because of anything she did, but because Ohden’s mother opted for an abortion when she was pregnant. “There are some of you who will be hurt by my story,” she said, then apologized.
She shared her mother thought she was only about 22 weeks pregnant when she decided to have an abortion. She was in college. Doctors performed a saline injection abortion, but she was nearly 28 weeks pregnant. The abortion failed.
Ohden shared after quite some time, she was delivered. Doctors thought she was dead, but after a few moments she stirred and made noise. They were sure she would be handicapped, if she survived. “I was so fortunate,” she said through tears. She said her parents adopted her when she was only a few months old. “I’m so grateful to my parents for taking a chance on me,” she said.
Ohden was a teen before she discovered she was the survivor of a failed abortion. “I felt ashamed, embarrassed and guilty,” she said. But Ohden went on to live a full life, found her biologic parents, and met her grandfather. While holding her newborn daughter, Olivia, she said waves of anger filled her, then soon subsided into sadness when she realize her beautiful child almost wasn’t born because her mother tried to end her pregnancy. “It’s one thing to say I don’t have a right to live, but no one has the right to say she doesn’t have that right.” Ohden’s teeth were clinched as she recalled the pain, but recovering, she spoke highly of her daughter and the amazing person she is.
She said many people ask her how it is she survived such an experience with no scars or brain damage, “I can give them the obvious answer,” she said, then rolled her eyes and smiled. “God.”
Also at the banquet, there were testimonies given about the good work the Pregnancy Support Center. Marchant explained, “We support young mothers and inform them about their options. They make their own decisions about what they’re going to do. Some keep their baby, some adopt, some have abortions. If they have an abortion we offer support then, too.” Marchant went on to say the Center will not fund abortions, but they do provide post abortion counseling to women and men. She said she was particularly interested in this program because she had an abortion at age 17. She said she still carries the hurt and regret. “I would give anything for just one moment with my daughter,” she said.
Marchant said the Center supported more than 1,200 mothers last year and the numbers are even stronger this year. When asked how many more people the Center could serve, Marchant said excitedly, “As many as can come through the door!”
She shared the Center is a place for joy and good news.
In looking over the Center’s budget, it was obvious there were no grant funds, no federal or state money. There were only two fundraisers and private donations. “We are a nonprofit 501 (c)(3),” she said. “But if we take federal or state dollars, we cannot tell these girls the good news about Christ.” Marchant explained the government looks at them more as a church, so funding is hard to come by. “We did get an abstinence grant to go into the schools, because we don’t talk about Christ in the school programs,” she said. “It is our joy to be your hands extended,” she said. “We will meet their needs as God meets ours.”
A Walk for Life fundraiser will be held in the spring. For more information about the Pregnancy Support Center, 111 W. 10th Street, contact Marchant at 519-HELP or log on to mypregnancyoptions.org.