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Commentary: Loving both the mother and the baby

Gloria Hurh-resized.jpg

There’s a service organization that has been in Macomb for almost fifty years, and yet I find there are many people who have never heard of it. And then there are those who have heard about it but have misconceptions about what it does--or doesn’t do. What service organization am I talking about? It’s Birthright of Macomb. I’ve been volunteering with Birthright for many years now and am currently serving as the director.

First, I’d like to tell you about what Birthright is—and what it is not.

Birthright’s mission is to offer support, understanding and love to any woman who finds herself faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Or she may be pregnant or a new mom needing some support. At Birthright, we love both the mother and the baby. Our services are confidential, non-judgmental, and always FREE. We welcome all women regardless of their circumstances. If the woman needs someone to talk with, we’re here. We don’t use scare tactics, pressure, or lectures. We respect the woman’s right to make her own decisions.

Birthright is an international organization with a charter that prohibits us from affiliating with any government agencies. Our financial support comes from private donations and fund-raisers. We’re nonsectarian and not affiliated with any church or religion—although some churches do support us and give us donations. We also are not politically active and we don’t demonstrate or lobby for legislative action. The Birthright Charter prohibits us from taking sides in the ongoing abortion debate. However, we do focus on giving support to the pregnant woman and hope she will choose to give birth to her child. We do not refer for abortions.

Birthright is an all-volunteer organization with no paid positions. We are nonprofit and all donations are tax deductible.

So I’ve given you information on what Birthright is and is not. How about the actual services Birthright gives? You know when we began 49 years ago in Macomb, times were different. For example, there were no home pregnancy tests. Tests had to be done in a doctor’s office. We actually took the woman’s urine sample to a doctor’s office and after a few hours we were told the results which we then told the woman. Now-a-days, we do our own pregnancy tests or women do home pregnancy tests. Since we are not a medical facility, we emphasize that the pregnancy should always be confirmed by a doctor. If the woman asks about adoption, we have pamphlets from licensed Illinois adoption agencies that explain “open” and “closed” adoption and details about the process.

Expectant mothers appreciate receiving our gift of the acclaimed book What to Expect When You Are Expecting by Heidi Murkoff. The book gives useful information for the health and well-being of the mother and baby during each of the 9 months of pregnancy. For newborn babies, we prepare layettes containing new clothing, blankets, and baby supplies. We have handmade baby blankets, booties, and caps. One of our more popular services are free diapers, and the moms make sure we don’t forget the important baby wipes. We also handout good second hand baby clothing up to size 18 months.

Referrals are an important part of helping our clients to find the resources they need. Birthright is a member of the McDonough County Interagency Council. We are aware of the variety of services in our area where we can refer our clients. Places like food pantries, discount or free clothing locations, the Early Beginnings agency which focuses on parents as educators, and the Women, Infants, and Children program (commonly known as WIC) at the McDonough Public Health Department.

I have found that each person who comes to Birthright is unique and has unique circumstances. We offer loving support to moms, fathers and babies. We’re located at 303 North Clay Street in Macomb. The office is open on Thursdays from 10 am until 2 pm and by special appointment. Check us out on the web at Birthright-dot-org or call 309-836-2021.

Birthright, a loving choice for both mother and child.

Gloria Hurh is Director of Birthright of Macomb

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or its license holder, Western Illinois University.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.