Authored by Dr. Laura Lewis, Executive Director of CAPSS

Where is your mission field? It could be somewhere on the other side of the world or it could be the community in which you live. The Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS) sees Canada as a national mission field!

Pregnancy care centres exist in many communities across Canada and CAPSS has been instrumental in helping to establish, equip, and encourage them. Established in 1997, CAPSS is a national best-practice affiliation existing to help communities provide a life-affirming response to those struggling with an unplanned pregnancy.

Although not often talked about, this issue touches many lives – the unborn child, the mother, the father, and extended family. Thus the impact of unplanned pregnancy and how it is dealt with is far-reaching.

This mission field is nationwide but it’s also very close and personal. I’d like to tell you about Tiffany, because although hers is just one story, it’s one that is repeated again and again across Canada.

Tiffany sat across from me with tears streaming down her face. She was young, single, and unexpectedly pregnant. Her life was in a tailspin and she was feeling frightened, overwhelmed, and desperate. Tiffany had come to me for help. You see, I was her family doctor.

As I listened to Tiffany, I too felt the confusion and chaos that had suddenly swept into her life. What did she need? Was I able to really give her help and support?

She looked at me with the expectation that I would have the answers and something worthwhile to share with her. However, I knew from many previous, similar encounters that what I could offer was not enough and she would be disappointed. Just like Tiffany, I felt a little helpless.

The standard medical response was a short talk about adoption and parenting and the provision of an abortion clinic number. My colleagues and I saw many young women in the same situation and most of them did not carry their children to term. Their choices were often more in response to pressure and a lack of support, rather than a well-informed, empowered decision.

I am so very thankful that ten years later in my small town, what is available for young women like Tiffany is very different! We now have a pregnancy care centre. A place where women and men receive compassionate, non-judgmental support, accurate education about their options, and the practical help they may need to make a life-affirming decision regarding their unplanned pregnancy.

A pregnancy care centre is not about an ideology but rather it is about compassionate help and truly making a difference in someone’s life – unconditional love, Christianity in action. Women and men challenged by an unplanned pregnancy now have the support and information many of them are looking for – including prenatal and parenting support, baby supplies, and more.

Pregnancy care centres not only educate and empower to allow well-informed decision making, but they also respect the rights and responsibilities of each individual to make their own decision. Although CAPSS and our affiliated centres uphold the value of all lives, born and unborn, we also want individuals to know that the care we provide is not dependent on the decision they make.

When a woman comes to a centre she knows that the staff and volunteers care not only about her baby but also about her. We know that both have a God-given destiny. The centre becomes a safe place to share her story and explore her options. It is also a safe place for women and men who have experienced an abortion in their past. They are met with compassion and unconditional love. And coming to the centre is often the first step on their path to receiving forgiveness, healing, and peace.

The pregnancy care centre has become a key component of the safety net in my hometown. As a physician, I was grateful to know I could refer my undecided patients to such a place. And as one of the founding committee members of our local centre, I was grateful for the many ways that CAPSS helped to facilitate the work.

Locally, I continue to see young women and men supported, loved, and cared for as they walk through some very difficult life circumstances. Nationally, I know the clients helped and the stories shared are multiplied. I also know there are many more communities and individuals looking to receive such assistance.

There are presently over 70 CAPSS affiliated centres operating in 9 provinces across Canada. It is our goal that women in every community in every province and territory have access to a local pregnancy care centre.

As a physician it is extremely important to me that our centres provide up to date, medically accurate information to clients about their unplanned pregnancy and their choices. CAPSS training programs and standards of care provide the framework for our centres to care for clients in a professional manner, while at the same time fostering a caring and supportive environment to walk alongside them.

There are many “Tiffanys” out there, you may have been one or you may have had a loved one in that situation – we can help them! Thanks to local pregnancy care centres, many women and men have found hope when life seemed hopeless and found healing when they felt it wasn’t possible.

I’m excited for this next season! I know we will see more lives saved and transformed, families and communities strengthened, and we will continue to expand the conversation of the challenges of unplanned pregnancies. It is time for the silence, shame, and lack of support surrounding this issue to end. We owe it to the countless women and men just like Tiffany, to provide the education and support they need. The mission field is there and we are in it, because we know we have an incredible opportunity to not only save lives, but bring transformation to this great nation!

(Picture: Over 135 leaders from pregnancy care centres across Canada gathered to pray for lives, families, and Canada)

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Dr. Laura Lewis, CAPSS Executive Director

Dr. Lewis is a wife, mother of two boys, and a family physician of over twenty years. During the course of her work as a frontline medical doctor, she saw the need for education, support and practical options for women and men facing unplanned pregnancies. In May of 2016, Dr. Lewis accepted the position of Executive Director of CAPSS.

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