After the end of Roe v. Wade, here’s what’s next for anti-abortion groups in South Texas
Corpus Christi Caller TimesView Comments
With abortions now banned in Texas, thousands of people who would have chosen to terminate their pregnancies are now facing the prospect of birth.
For anti-abortion groups, the overturn of Roe v. Wade was a win.
“I think the church, in line with Jesus Christ, promotes life,” Bishop Michael Mulvey of the Diocese of Corpus Christi said. “And the fact that our Supreme Court has, through this decision, recognized the value of life, first of all, that is certainly something that we are grateful for.”
Looking forward, faith communities and anti-abortion advocacy groups in the Coastal Bend — where Catholics make up about 70% of the population, according to the Corpus Christi diocese — are preparing for the roles they might play in supporting mothers and young families.
“Instead of just doing protests and whatever you see in the news, there’s also a need for us to reach out to people that are in need at all levels,” Mulvey said.
Mulvey said parishes in the diocese will be revitalizing efforts to support mothers through a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops initiative, Standing with Moms in Need, so that if someone comes to the parish in need of assistance, they can be connected to resources or mentors in the parish.
“It’s something we need to organize better and that’s my intention for this coming year, is to organize that better in the parishes,” Mulvey said, “because many people are looking for ways, (saying) how can we help and be present to people in need.”
Abortion is one issue, and it’s a very important one, but I think we all need to look at the human life in its totality.
Bishop Michael Mulvey of the Diocese of Corpus Christi
According to Texas Health and Human Services data, there were 50,532 “induced terminations of pregnancies,” or abortions, in 2021. A state law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect in September. Since then, the number of abortions performed each month has been cut in half.
About 85% of those who received abortions in Texas in 2021 were unmarried. More than 30,000 already had at least one child. More than 4,000 abortions were performed on teenagers, including at least one on an 11-year-old child or younger and 30 on 12- to 13-year-old children.
It is unclear how many people from the Coastal Bend might have terminated their pregnancies. Though there have been no abortion clinics in Corpus Christi since Coastal Birth Control Center closed in 2014, abortions were available for those able to travel a few hours to other Texas cities such as San Antonio, Houston or McAllen.
Now, the nearest abortion clinics to Corpus Christi are much farther away. There are clinics in Las Cruces, New Mexico, that offer the abortion pill, but the road trip would take more than 10 hours. Even farther, clinics in Albuquerque and Wichita, Kansas, offer surgical abortions.
For years, the state of Texas has been funding the Alternatives to Abortion program with the goal of reducing abortions and improving child health and prenatal nutrition, up from $5 million in 2006-07 to nearly $80 million in 2020-21. The funds are distributed to groups that provide counseling, parenting classes and supplies such as diapers or pregnancy tests.
Critics say that the state program lacks oversight, and that the crisis pregnancy centers and other local organizations that the program funds offer assistance that often comes with conditions. For example, some require that visitors take parenting classes before receiving supplies, and many of the groups are faith-based, established with the goal of preventing abortions.
“Texas overall lacks a medical, social safety net and crisis pregnancy centers weaponize that gap to push their agenda,” said Delma Catalina Limones, communications manager for Avow, a Texas abortion advocacy group. “Most of these don’t provide actual medical services and what they do is with an agenda. Health care and resources and community programs should not come with an agenda of an outcome.”
Pregnancy Center of the Coastal Bend
The Pregnancy Center of the Coastal Bend is an anti-abortion effort that operates five pregnancy centers in Corpus Christi, Calallen, Portland and Rockport, offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Last year, the center received $776,323.34 from the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program.
The organization also operates a resale shop, Hi Again Resale, that supports the group’s work. The group’s encouragement of parenthood is clear in the shop, from an entire section of the store full of baby clothing and a back storage space full of diaper and child supply donations, to the actual mothers and pregnant women on staff, manning checkout often with a child in tow.
Parents can earn baby supplies such as diapers, baby clothes, cribs and car seats if they attend free parenting classes. With each weekly class they attend, parents accrue points that can be exchanged for items.
The center offered close to 2,000 pregnancy tests last year, Executive Director Jana Pinson estimated, with the number of people the center reaches increasing each year. Last year, 583 mothers who said they were thinking about abortion when they came into the center chose to continue their pregnancies, Pinson said.
The center asks visitors what their plans are for the pregnancy and offers them information from a booklet developed by the state containing information about abortion. The booklet has been criticized for implying a risk of breast cancer, though experts maintain that research does not indicate a causal relationship between abortion and breast cancer risk.
One of the center’s talking points is also abortion pill reversal — an experimental treatment to stop the effects of an abortion pill — which medical experts such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say is not supported by science.
When asked whether there are enough local resources to support a potential increase in the numbers of pregnant individuals and parents in need of assistance as abortion becomes more and more inaccessible, Pinson said she believes religious communities can handle the load.
“Churches are standing there ready to meet needs,” Pinson said, pointing out the center’s own packed storage space of supplies for families in need. “Will we run out of resources? No, because we have a larger church population that is ready.”
The organization is currently in the process of repurposing a building previously used by the Corpus Christi chapter of Birthright, another anti-abortion group which disbanded, located near Del Mar College. This fall, it plans to break ground on a new, 20,000-square-foot location near Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
“It’ll have all free STD tests, all free pregnancy tests, all free ultrasounds and the whole parenting program and a coffee shop and a mini resale shop that will be geared for college (students),” Pinson said.
Corpus Christi Hope House
Corpus Christi Hope House has four shelters where women and their dependent children and newborn babies can stay. The shelters also provide baby supplies, diapers and formula.
“We’re here to help those moms that decide, hey, I want to parent or place my baby for adoption,” Executive Director Melissa Juarez said. “We’ll be here for them and help them get through the pregnancy.”
Another of the group’s main programs is The Gabriel Project. The community outreach program connects people with diapers, baby wipes, clothing, baby items, furniture and appliances, and life skills and parenting classes.
“If it’s something we can’t do, we try to refer them to somebody who can,” Juarez said.
Hope House received $248,473.75 from the Alternatives to Abortion program last year.
For more than 30 years, anti-abortion supporters in Corpus Christi have gathered for an annual event and fundraiser to benefit Hope House, as well as Birthright of Corpus Christi before it closed.
In October, Hope House and the Gabriel Project will be holding the 33rd annual “Celebration for Life” banquet, this year celebrating the overturn of Roe v. Wade and anticipating an increased need for services.
Juarez said the program has expanded over the years from two to four shelters. It served 12,000 people through The Gabriel Project and 90 women and children at the shelters last year.
Mulvey noted the work of Hope House, as well as Catholic Charities in supporting the community.
Being “pro-life,” Mulvey said, isn’t just about abortion. Connected to that issue are efforts to support the homeless, the hungry, the elderly, immigrants and anyone in need of assistance, he said.
“Abortion is one issue, and it’s a very important one, but I think we all need to look at the human life in its totality,” Mulvey said.