By BRIAN CAULFIELD
The first time she spoke to Christopher Bell on the telephone about not
getting an abortion and keeping her unborn child, Keva McKenzie thought, "This
man doesn't know what I'm going through. It's not that easy just to have your
Today Ms. McKenzie and her two-month-old baby boy live at the Good Counsel
Paraclete home in the South Bronx, and she is grateful that she found Bell,
director of Good Counsel Inc., to help her in a time of crisis.
Everything isn't exactly the way I want it to be," Ms. McKenzie, a high
school student, told CNY. "But I'm glad I didn't get the abortion. Thank God."
Her story is not unusual. In CNY interviews with women who had sought the
help of local crisis pregnancy centers and kept their babies, a common theme
emerged. Each was abandoned by the father of her child. Most were rejected by
their own family. Each felt an inner need to keep her unborn child but had few
financial resources and some had no place to stay. As a result, they regretfully
decided that abortion was their only choice. The ways in which these women got
in contact with the pregnancy centers varied widely, from a call to a phone-in
television show to a response to a Yellow Pages advertisement. Despite present
struggles and a sometimes uncertain future, each woman expressed contentment
with her decision and told of the great love her child had brought into her
Many of the women were able to receive medical care through Medicaid and are
helping to support their children through government assistance programs. The
pregnancy centers offer financial aid when needed and routinely provide food,
clothing, parenting classes and other necessities.
The centers in the archdiocese, as well as the Catholic Home Bureau and the
network of services available through Catholic Charities, help fulfill Cardinal
O'Connor's offer of help to any woman in a crisis pregnancy, regardless of
"So many women go into these abortion mills emotionally upset and alone and
are just looking for someone to say, 'We can help you, you don't have to do
this,' " said Bell, who runs four homes in the archdiocese for single mothers
and their children.
"We have many ways of helping women," Bell remarked in a CNY interview. "My
question is, 'Do we have enough love in our society today?' I want to say that
we do have enough love, and that love comes from Jesus Christ. That's why Good
Counsel and all the other pregnancy centers exist."
Ms. McKenzie had scheduled an abortion. By what she called a strange twist of
fate, she was mugged on her way to the clinic and robbed of the $300 she had to
pay for the abortion. Soon after, she decided against abortion when she and her
grandmother in New Jersey heard the story from the Eternal Word Television
Network (EWTN) of a pregnant teen who was helped to keep her baby. Ms. McKenzie
called EWTN in Birmingham, Ala., and was referred to Father Frank A. Pavone, a
priest of the archdiocese who is national director of Priests for Life. He put
her in contact with Bell.
She was three months pregnant, and Bell told her to seek prenatal care. Since
she was a minor, the clinic she went to wouldn't treat her without parental
consent, even though she would not have needed such consent to have an abortion.
Her parents were in Trinidad. Torn, she had a few more phone conversations with
Bell before she moved into the Bronx Good Counsel home. She delivered Kemel Mark
last month at Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center.
While at Good Counsel, she attended a special public high school in the Bronx
for pregnant teens and earned academic honors last June. The home's policy
allows mothers and their children to stay a year or longer after delivery.
"I'm happy I never stopped going to school," she said. "I plan to continue in
Julia Campbell of the Bronx was pregnant with her second child, battling
depression and debating whether or not to have an abortion. Looking for a clinic
in the Yellow Pages, she came across an ad for Expectant Mother Care in
Manhattan, which offers abortion alternatives. She called for an appointment.
"They showed me a video and made an appointment to come back," said Ms.
Campbell, 35. "They showed me that it was alive."
She met Christopher T. Slattery, director of the pregnancy center, who
arranged medical treatment and encouraged her to seek child support from the
She delivered a boy by Caesarean section in early June and plans to return
soon to her job as a nanny and housekeeper.
Kathy DiFiore, director of Several Sources, which has four homes in New
Jersey for pregnant women, told CNY of midnight calls from women literally left
out on the street, as well as the more usual cases of a young woman's secret
call from the house of a friend or a concerned relative. Her organization has an
emergency package which is sent free to any woman on request. It contains copies
of handwritten letters and baby photos from women who kept their babies through
Several Sources, as well as a 20-minute video on the services available, a baby
rattle and sleeper garment, Catholic prayer cards and a Miraculous Medal. The
response to the package is almost always positive, and a phone call from the
pregnant woman usually follows, Ms. DiFiore said.
Her program stresses chastity and the necessity for religious faith for a
"We present Church, God and prayer as a part of the problem solving
apparatus," she said. "We cannot leave these out, otherwise we're just another
social service agency, and we haven't solved the bigger problems of a woman's
Good Counsel also has chastity classes and a no dating policy for residents.
A testament to Ms. DiFiore's program is that eight of the 13 staff members
who live at the shelters are women who came to Several Sources with a crisis
"I never consider any of the girls my clients," Ms. DiFiore said. "I consider
them my daughters, my friends. God gives us these mothers and we work with
An assistant house manager in the Ramsey home, Melissa Girolamo, 18, left her
parents' home in upstate New York when she became pregnant and went to live with
an uncle in New Jersey. Her uncle referred her to Several Sources, which sent
the reply package by express mail. "I was hesitant about opening the package
because I was really considering an abortion," she told CNY. "I read some of the
letters the girls had written, and I started crying, 'Oh, my gosh, how could I
consider this?' "
She entered the Ramsey, N.J., home in February and delivered a baby girl,
Mary Frances, two months ago. She plans to enter college in January.
"I know what's right and wrong from being raised Catholic. I knew abortion
wasn't right, and I didn't want to do it," she said.
Another woman moved last year from a Several Sources home into her own
apartment with her 3-year-old son. She called her initial decision to abort "a
forced thing." She said, "I don't think any woman wants to do it. I thought it
was the only option."
The woman, 26, who did not want her name used, is graduating in May from a
New Jersey college with a degree in environmental studies.
"It's hard but I have a goal now, and it makes things easier," she said. "I
can look forward to the future."
After Amy Laiosa had an abortion at age 18 she vowed never to go through the
"I knew abortion was wrong and decided I would go through with it anyway,"
she told CNY. "I didn't realize the psychological and physical effects it would
have on me, though. They don't tell you that at the abortion clinic. They just
say you'll feel better in a few days."
Ms. Laiosa said she felt "a piece of me was missing" and two months after the
abortion became pregnant again. She moved out of her family's home in New Jersey
and entered the Good Counsel home in Spring Valley. She delivered a baby girl,
Samantha, and has lived at the home for three years while finishing high school.
"This has been a very good place," she said. "My daughter has other children to
play with, and I have support to become a better mother for my child. They teach
me day by day."
Ms. Laiosa was so impressed by the witness of the staff at Good Counsel that
she decided to take instruction in the Catholic faith from a priest who visits
the home regularly. She was received into the Church with two other residents
She also has become involved in pro-life work, praying at abortion facilities
and giving talks at local schools.
At her first prayer vigil at an abortion clinic, she and another women who
had an abortion "broke down and starting bawling on the street," she recalled.
"It's hard to see the women going in. You want to pull them aside and talk to
Priests for Life in the News