Good Counsel Makes Abortion Rarer

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Tomorrow night in Manhattan, I’ll be making remarks at a dinner for Good Counsel, a Catholic group that provides housing and support for pregnant women in the New York Metropolitan area (where the abortion rate, you may have heard, is 41 percent). You’re welcome to join us, in support of Good Counsel and the families they serve. Details are here. (If you are among the 64 percent of New Yorkers who think 41 percent is too high, here is something you can do to help change things.)

To give you a sense of what Good Counsel does, I talked with Chris Bell, who founded Good Counsel along with Fr. Benedict Groeschel:

KJL: So what exactly is Good Counsel?

Chris Bell: Good Counsel started in 1985 as a home to help parenting mothers return to school and find jobs, because in 1985, I mistakenly thought there were homes taking in homeless pregnant women until they gave birth. Shortly after opening, we began to take pregnant women and pregnant women with other born children. Now, we also help mothers who do not need housing in our outreach program. And on our national hotline, we receive about eight calls a day or 3,000 a year. Women come to us from all over the country needing various help, and after they stay with us for one year, we help them for another couple of years in our Exodus follow up program. Additionally, Good Counsel developed a post-abortion referral service which also has specific healing programs. Lumina has a national hotline (877-LUMINA1) and website ([email protected]). Some specific healing programs include retreats for men who have been involved in an abortion and siblings of those aborted, as well as couples who were given a poor prenatal diagnosis.


Lopez: How much of Good Counsel is about God?

Bell: God is love. God’s love began this mission; God’s love animates all that we do every day, and because every person conceived is made in the image and likeness of God, we have to, in justice, offer mercy and charity. In each of our homes, and at the Lumina office, we are blessed to have the Holy Eucharist in a chapel. We encourage all our staff to pray at least one hour each week while they are working with us and we invite all those we meet, particularly the mothers, to share their faith and come to a deeper understanding of our all-loving and merciful Father and His son, Jesus Christ.

Lopez: How did you ever get involved in this work?

Bell: I was a volunteer at Covenant House in New York City, working with street kids and runaways, and I came to realize that single mothers, often abandoned by family and friends, found themselves homeless and on the street. Frequently, the mothers aborted their babies out of despair, or were forced to abort by boyfriends or family members, and were pregnant again within two years. I lamented this sad state of affairs to Father Benedict, and asked him why somebody didn’t do something about it. He responded with, “Go ahead, Chris.” So, with Father Benedict’s support and advice, the first Good Counsel home opened in Hoboken, New Jersey, in March 1985.

Lopez: What’s different and special about Good Counsel homes?

Bell: Besides being possibly the first pro-life program helping pregnant and parenting mothers, in the ’80s:

— We use online technology to assess a mother when she enters a Good Counsel home.

— We offer life-skill programs to help the women advance educationally, socially, and vocationally.

— We have possibly the only pro-life home helping women who have mental-health issues as well as drug or alcohol addiction, called Daystar

— We are constantly evaluating what is best for each individual mother who comes to us and trying to meet her needs.

— We are looking to help others around the nation to create similar pro-life, pro-chastity homes.

— The immediacy of entry into our program. There is no waiting period before we take a mother in. This is especially critical for a pregnant mother in a crisis situation.

Lopez: How many homes do you have?

Bell: Five, and we have helped homes open in eight states, which are operating independently of Good Counsel.

Lopez: How does a woman go from “walking on the Mass Turnpike because I had to leave an abusive boyfriend,” as one mother you’ve helped has told her story, to being in a Good Counsel Home?

Bell: I don’t remember exactly how Marisa came from the Turnpike to our home. However, I believe she was picked up by someone who fortunately offered to help and started to call around and was referred to us, and that’s how she came to us. It is not uncommon for a woman to go into a New York City emergency assistance unit and be told there’s no help for her. “Go back to where you came from.” Even if that were a domestic violence situation. We had a woman recently who was in tears outside an EAU office. Another young woman came up to her and asked what was the matter and then told her about Good Counsel because she was pregnant. That very morning that mother entered our home.

Lopez: What’s the criteria for someone to live there? Besides being a woman and pregnant?

Bell: Being in need.

Lopez: What happens after a woman leaves your home? Because she only gets to stay a year after her child is born?

Bell: We consider our Exodus program like being a big sister.

Lopez: This is a general question, a big one, about a diverse group of people, but what does a pregnant woman who finds herself on your doorstep generally need most?

Bell: A lot of love. One woman told me that she was married and divorced. She then started dating someone, got pregnant, and her sisters and mother and boyfriend told her it wasn’t time to have a baby. She looked at me and said, “I had no choice.” That was a year before she got pregnant again and said, “I couldn’t do it again, and I didn’t know there were so many people who would help me, and I m very grateful that God led me here.”

Lopez: How does the financing work? Where does most of your support come from?

Bell: Individuals support us with small and large contributions. We do get some grants from private foundations. We have gotten some money from the counties where we have a home, but truly we beg for money and we’re grateful to God for everything we get. The vast majority of our donors give because they are motivated by their love of God and love of God’s children. I am sure some people give and they would call themselves pro-abortion or pro-choice, but those who are strongly for abortion do not believe our mothers should have a choice to give birth. It’s very, very sad to think that anyone would look down on any mother regardless of how she became pregnant or how many children she has. To think that the child in her womb created in the image and likeness of God is not worthy of a birth date or is not as worthy as anyone else to live life.

Lopez: Could government make it easier to do what you do?

Bell: Government could allow for donations that go toward helping pregnant and parenting mothers to be given more of a tax break. For example, in Missouri donations to maternity homes are counted as two times more than donations to other charities.

Lopez: Do you collaborate with other similar homes? Are there other similar homes in your area?

Bell: Yes, in fact Good Counsel is one of the co-founders of the Pregnancy Services Network which includes more than a dozen pregnancy centers and maternity homes, and others serving pregnant women in need in the greater New York City area.

Lopez: Is adoption way too hard for women to consider these days? Is there enough support to bolster that option?

Bell: Too many states have laws that make it difficult for women to have an anonymous adoption, and too many teens are not aware of the various adoption options, such as open adoptions or semi-open adoptions, or that they can choose who the parents of their child may be. If a woman wants to make an adoption plan, there are many good agencies and people who can assist her in any way she wants. At Good Counsel we try to educate mothers on what adoption is and is not. Sometimes mothers plan adoptions within their own family network, but nationally it is still less than 4 percent of single women who give birth who plan an adoption. And every year, about half a million teenage girls have abortions. In the past, those teen girls would have planned an adoption and there are usually two million couples looking to adopt any given year in the U.S. The media and pro-abortion groups promote the idea of adoption as a negative option. Truly, adoption is a very loving act.

Lopez: What would you primarily love for people to appreciate about Good Counsel homes?

Bell: That Good Counsel is trying to offer God’s love and forgiveness to mothers and babies who are abandoned and rejected. With everybody’s help, donors, volunteers, and staff, we try to share God’s mercy.

Lopez: What do you wish more people knew about women and abortion?

Bell: That abortion hurts a woman as deeply as it hurts a baby. It kills the life of the baby, and it kills the soul of the mother.

Lopez: Will abortion end in your lifetime? In the next generation? Can it really ever really end?

Bell: With the help of God, we’ll see it end quickly like we saw the fall of Communism throughout most of the world.

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