The Sedalia Birthright Chapter will host the Missouri State Birthright meeting Friday at Our Savior Lutheran Church. The state meeting was last hosted in Sedalia in 2006.
The all-volunteer Sedalia Birthright, which provides free, confidential pregnancy testing and maternity and baby clothes to teens and young pregnant women, will receive training on how to be better prepared in helping clients.
“We believe every child is a gift from God,” Sedalia Birthright Director Jeanette Pahlow said. “There is a purpose and plan for its life.”
Pahlow noted it is the 45th anniversary for Birthright in Missouri and the 41st for the agency in Sedalia.
According to information provided by Pahlow, Cynthia Kneibert organized the the Sedalia chapter in May 1975. Dorothy Hunt and Mitzi Linsenbardt were also two local, early volunteers. Hunt still serves as the group’s medical director. Pahlow added that Bonnie Lazenby, also an early volunteer, is still active with Sedalia Birthright. There are 14 volunteers in the local office.
“Everything we do is free,” she added. “We do pregnancy testing; if they have a positive test we give them printed materials on taking care of themselves and the pregnancy, the baby’s development, breastfeeding.”
Also, at no charge, the women can receive maternity clothes as well as baby and child clothing.
“When the baby’s born, we give the mom a basket of baby clothing, onesies, diapers, receiving blankets,” she said.
Several area organizations and individuals make and donate quilts, afghans and baby booties for the local chapter.
“We are pro-life,” Pahlow added. “If we have a negative test, especially if it’s a younger girl, we just encourage her to think about her goals and focus on her education. We’re not judgmental. We get people in all kinds of situations, and we just take them where they’re at and try to help them the best we can.
“We are a small organization, that is why our help is limited to the women who are pregnant or have had their babies with us,” she noted. “But, even then, we try to redirect people to places where they can find the help they need.”
Teenagers are especially encouraged to find a support system for decisions during their pregnancy.
“We never refer for abortion,” Pahlow added. “We ask them ‘what kind of support do you have? Are your parents going to be supporting you? Is the father of the baby going to be involved?’ We try to see what their needs are, and what’s beyond our capacity to help, then we know how to forward them to the right group to help them.”
Sedalia Birthright helps approximately 200 to 300 young, pregnant women each year.
“We really want to reach out to the teenagers,” she noted. “Because, that’s just such a life-changing decision for them. We do promote the option of adoption, although we are not personally involved in that process.”
Sedalia Birthright sends women who wish to not keep their baby to licensed adoption agencies.
“We don’t have very many who are interested in adoption, but we use agencies that we know will counsel them in adopting and also in parenting if they change their mind,” Pahlow said.
She added that there has been no increase in the number of young pregnant women seeking help at Birthright for sometime.
“Because of the $1 pregnancy test, that way we miss a lot of the teenagers,” she added. “It’s a concern, we plan to reach out more to local high schools, making them aware of our services.
“That they take good care of themselves and their baby as they’re pregnant, that’s a real concern,” Pahlow added. “If they come and have a negative test, then we focus on education and on the goals they have for themselves. Surprisingly, some of these girls, nobody has ever asked them if they have a goal.”
The Sedalia Birthright chapter is supported by several area churches and individuals with monetary donations or projects or by providing space for fundraisers. Pahlow said Birthright does not receive any government monies.
The Sedalia Birthright Chapter is located at 1810 W. 11th St. The office is open from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 826-9060 or toll free at 1-800-550-4900 or visit www.Birthright.org and search Sedalia.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.