By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
NEW ORLEANS – “We have to go where the unborn babies are,” says Perry Hancock, president of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries.[img_assist|nid=8073|title=Second Mobile Unit|desc=The Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home will add a second mobile pregnancy care center this summer, and it will stay in the greater New Orleans area.|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=50]
Where are unborn babies? In wombs. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb, …” according to Psalm 139:13. “I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.”
Protecting the lives of unborn babies is the reason LBCH started its mobile pregnancy care center last April. That’s why it’s adding a second unit this summer – one to stay in the greater New Orleans area.
“Fewer than three out of ten women who face a crisis pregnancy actually go to a pro-life pregnancy center,” Hancock said. “The mobile unit takes the ministry to them.
“We know there’s a concentration of women in New Orleans who are having unplanned pregnancies,” the LBCH president continued. “The reason we are trying to have the second mobile unit in New Orleans is because we are having so many requests for the first one from our churches there.”
Since the first unit opened for ministry, it’s been invited to dozens of events – festivals, health fairs, block parties – across Louisiana, and counseled more than 600 women in its first eight months, through Dec. 31, 2011.
Ron Kouf drives the bus and handles scheduling. Contact him at 318.816.3462 to schedule the LBCH Mobile Pregnancy Care Center at events anywhere in Louisiana.
Ron’s wife, Registered Nurse Cindy Kouf, administers pregnancy tests and ultrasound screenings in addition to – and with the help of local, trained volunteers – counseling the women (and sometimes men) who stop by.
New Orleans is unlike any other city in the United States, geographically and culturally. Its recent history includes a slow but steady return from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Yet, a dark cloud of death still hangs over the city. There were reportedly almost 2,000 abortions in the city in 2009 – more than all the deaths attributed to Katrina and the resulting floods.
Three abortion clinics operate at the present time in New Orleans. A fourth was closed last May. Backers for it recently announced the need for donations for a new $4 million abortion facility.
Southern Baptists had a pro-life presence in New Orleans as early as 1920, through the Baptist Women’s Emergency Home, which became the Sellers Maternity Home and Adoption Center in 1961, honoring the physician who had volunteered his services there for 33 years.
In 1991, LBCH took over the ministry. Ms. Lynn Seymour donated property in Tallulah and the home relocated there that same year. In 2007, Sellers moved to its present location in Baton Rouge, to property donated by Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Cheatham.
Until a permanent pro-life pregnancy care center can be reestablished in New Orleans – perhaps as part of New Orleans Baptist Association’s compassion ministries focus – the mobile unit is set to minister with the help of 20 or more area church members trained in Christian pro-life counseling, Hancock said.
The Kouf couple will manage it as well as the unit that crosses the state.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has offered to donate through the donor-driven Psalm 139 Project, a $42,000 ultrasound machine and related training for the New Orleans unit.
The Psalm 139 Project is a national thrust begun in 2009 to engage Southern Baptists in saving the lives of unborn babies. Already enough donations have come in to place ultrasound equipment in Texas, California, Colorado, Mississippi, Indiana, Florida and Arizona.
With the SBC annual meeting taking place this summer at the convention center in New Orleans, and with the LBCH’s decision to have a second mobile pregnancy care center in the area, it was a natural choice to allocate the next Psalm 139 Project ultrasound for New Orleans, said Dwayne Hastings, ERLC vice president of media and communications.
“We are more convinced than ever that the assault on the sanctity of human life will not cease until God’s people stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Hastings said. “Our society’s foundations will continue to weaken as this ‘culture of death’ tightens its grip on the innocent and defenseless among us.
“God has redeemed us that we might do good works in His name and to His glory, as it says in Titus 2:11-14,” Hastings continued. “We are hopeful you will partner with us in this critical effort to put an ultrasound machine in the New Orleans-based mobile pregnancy unit.”
Tax-deductible gifts can be sent to the Psalm 139 Project, ERLC, 901 Commerce St, Nashville TN 37203.
As of early April, about $20,000 was still needed to be able to purchase the New Orleans ultrasound machine, Hastings said.
“The Psalm 139 Project is dedicated to making people aware of the life-saving potential of ultrasound technology in crisis pregnancy situations and to help pregnancy centers minister to abortion-vulnerable women,” Hastings said. “We are just making a gift of the machine in New Orleans with no strings attached.”
An ultrasound machine provides a real-time image of the unborn baby. At five weeks and five days, the heartbeat is obvious, Cindy Kouf RN explained. By nine weeks, arm nubs can be seen in the infant, who weighs less than an ounce and is less than an inch long.
Women – and men – who see an ultrasound of their baby are said by pro-life leaders to be 90 percent less likely to have an abortion than those who do not see an ultrasound.
“They can hear their baby’s heartbeat and realize and understand that what the world told them is wrong,” Hancock said. “The ultrasound shows them that an abortion is not a choice; it’s a life beating inside them.”
He gave three additional reasons for the mobile units:
n People – men and women – can pick up pro-life literature available at no cost; some was designed specifically for men.
n Biblically-based abstinence education is offered.
n The mobile units also provide a positive Christian witness.
“Between April and December last year, 100 percent of the women who had an ultrasound [in the LBCH mobile pregnancy care center] who were abortion-minded, either voiced a reconsideration or chose at that moment to not have an abortion,” Hancock said.
The New Orleans mobile pregnancy care center likely will have two rooms for counseling, rather than the one room in the first unit. Other than that, it will be outfitted much the same as the first unit.
Kouf said she has heard over the last year, working through the first mobile pregnancy care center, that some women who come in to have a pregnancy test, say, “If I’m pregnant, I’m going to have an abortion.”
“Not everybody is upset at the thought of being pregnant,” the nurse said. “Some people are happy; some are scared; some, disappointed. … But nationwide, when women see the movement of the heart, the pattern of the heartbeat on the screen, a lot of them decide they’re going to carry their baby.”
By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor